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~ GAIA Goodness ~

Refugee Resettlement 101

GAIA Re 

Few of us learn about refugee resettlement in school. In fact, many of us at GAIA were pretty clueless prior to our work with refugees... but once we learned more, we were even more compelled to make them feel welcome here in the United States. While most people who are engaged with the world around us are aware that refugees are continually being resettled in the U.S., many still don’t understand the differences between immigration (legal or not) and refugee resettlement.

 Though all refugees are immigrants, not all immigrants are refugees. People immigrate to the United States for many reasons. Some want more opportunities for their children. Some have been displaced by a natural disaster. Others move here for jobs, education, health care, even love. Both immigrants and refugees leave their homelands with hope for better lives, but refugees are specifically trying to escape violence, persecution, and war. Above all, they seek safety for themselves and their families.

 Refugees are vetted more thoroughly than any other group seeking to enter the United States. In fact, the hardest way to enter our country is as a refugee!

 We know it can be a lot to untangle, especially in these politically charged times, so we’ve answered a few common questions below. For a more detailed explanation of the U.S. refugee vetting and resettlement process, go to rescue.org

 Who decides if someone qualifies as a refugee?

 The United Nations. All of the women who are employed at GAIA — and, in fact, all refugees who live in the United States — were were identified as people needing asylum from violence by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a U.S. embassy, or an approved humanitarian aid organization. They were then carefully screened by the United States government before being allowed to travel to the United States and make homes here.

 In the case of our Maria, a non-profit group came to her camp to ask people to apply to live in the United States. Huda’s husband got an inexplicable call from the United Nations asking him if he would like to relocate from Jordan, where he and Huda were living after fleeing Syria. He said yes, but not without his son and daughter-in-law, Bothina, and their children. Those are just two examples of how someone might earn refugee status.

 According to the International Rescue Committee (IRC), there are nearly 20 million refugees in the world. Less than 1 percent are considered for resettlement. The United States is one of 28 countries where a refugee can be resettled.

 More than 3 million refugees in total have arrived in the United States since 1975, according to data from the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center. In fiscal year 2016, 84,995 refugees were admitted to the United States. The largest numbers came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Burma (Myanmar), and Iraq.

GAIA Refugee Women

 What happens after someone is identified as a refugee?

 Refugees aren’t just told to pack their bags and given plane tickets. Resettlement is a lengthy process that begins with an application for security clearance. There are agencies all over the world that help them with this.

 Security screenings in the United States involved six government agencies, including the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense. The process takes about 36 months, and involves biographic and biometric checks, medical screenings, forensic document testing, and in-person interviews.

 Catherin and her husband, for example, were interviewed three times and underwent a barrage of of medical examinations, including X-rays and blood tests, before being cleared to move the the United States after spending more than 10 years in refugee camps in Thailand.

 Syrian refugees go through extra review steps with agencies that have expertise and training in conditions in Syria and the Middle East.

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Who decides where refugees will live in the United States?

 There are nine national refugee resettlement agencies in the United States. They work with the government to help refugees restart their lives here. As a legal U.S. resident, a refugee can live anywhere he or she chooses, but typically refugees are placed in cities where they have relatives or friends, or where there is an established community that shares their language and culture. In the case of Huda and Bothina, for example, they moved to Dallas because Bothina had an uncle living here.

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 What happens to refugees once they are here?

 For the first 90 days, resettlement agencies work with state and local governments and community organizations to help new arrivals settle into their communities. During that time, they undergo additional health screenings, they get assistance enrolling their children in school, they are informed about English classes, and they get help finding jobs.

 Even under the best circumstances, resettlement is difficult, but most refugees eventually thrive in the United States — finding full-time work, paying taxes, and becoming active members of their communities.

 GAIA has played a significant roll in the lives of our refugee artisans and their families. Steady work that pays a living wage is essential for a stable life. We are so proud of the accomplishments of these strong women.

 Catherin and Latifa (and Latifa's husband) have become U.S. citizens. Feza recently purchased a home for her family. Bothina now oversees a whole team of refugee artisans and apprentices. Huda is working hard on her English. Maria is working and mothering three bright, funny children.

 And when you purchase handmade accessories from GAIA, you become part of their stories — and the refugee resettlement process.

 How cool is that?

Why does GAIA hire refugees? Our founder, Paula, explains.

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5 GAIA Text Pouches That Make Rad Grad Gifts

 

May brings lots of good things: spring flowers, Mother’s Day, and school graduations! A Facebook feed filled with photos of young adults in their caps and gowns really lifts us up, and we love all the funny and inspiring graduation speeches that make the rounds. But what to gift an aspiring graduate?

We’re glad you asked — we’ve got just the thing! A GAIA text pouch is a mantra in textile form. Our pom-pomed pouches are playful accessories that can be a daily reminder of something she’s working toward.

Here are five ideas for go-getters who are crossing the graduation stage this season.

GAIA Text Pouches Killin' It 

 

Most Likely to Impress the Boss on the First Day: Killin’ It

 

GAIA Text Pouches Hustle

 

Most Likely to Have a Full-Time Job and a Side Project: Hustle

 

 GAIA Text Pouches Girl Boss

 

Most Likely to Be the Boss Within the First Five Years: Girl Boss

 

 GAIA Text Pouches Adulting 

 

Most Likely to Open a 401(k) With Her First Paycheck: Adulting

GAIA Text Pouches Goals 

 

Most Likely to Have a Solid Five-Year Plan: Goals 

Shop all our text pouches.

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Spring Into Summer With Our New Collection

GAIA Spring/Summer 2017

The last six months have been super busy for us! We worked day and night to get our J.Crew order ready, hiring and training refugee artisan apprentices, sourcing materials, and performing hours upon hours of quality control. It was a lot! 

At the same time, we were designing and sourcing our spring/summer 2017 line. (We wish we could say it’s the kind of thing we do a year in advance, but we're not quite that sophisticated). We released our new goodies to the site as they’ve been ready, but we are finally ready to reveal the entire collection!  Drum roll....

What can you expect from GAIA this season? For our bags: five new fabrics for Pom Pom bags and large and small pouches, colored leathers, an assortment of grosgrain ribbon trim, new combos with familiar fabrics, upgraded zippers, gold-plated GAIA medallions, and an all-new gold ring handle on our Cha Cha bag. We’ve also got a new swoon-worthy style of tassel earring we think you’re going to love, as well as new color combos for beaded necklaces and Mini Kitty purses. 

And so — without further ado — the GAIA spring/summer collection!

GAIA Spring/Summer 2017

With this collection we refined our designs and focused on scaling a bit. That meant finding a fabric source that would allow for deeper inventory than vintage fabrics do. Paula traveled to a textile show in New York City earlier this year and brought back five heritage fabrics. All bright, happy jacquards with a contemporary look and feel, they are produced by a ninth-generation French textile mill. We paired the fabrics with colored leathers and striped grosgrain ribbon trim for a modern-preppy look that can be worn for a range of occasions day and night. The designs are unlike anything you’ve seen from us in seasons past, and we’re really pleased with them.

GAIA Spring/Summer 2017

There are five color combinations of large pouches and four combos of small pouches using the new fabrics and ribbon.



GAIA Spring/Summer 2017

There are three color combos of Pom Pom bags with the new fabrics.

GAIA Spring/Summer 2017

The new tassel earring successfully takes the existing capabilities of our refugee artisans and employs a new shape. We sandwiched a single tassel between two ovals for a look that’s a little less casual than the sunburst tassel earring but is still colorful and fun. There are four color combinations of the new single-tassel earring.



We updated the Cha Cha in eight color combos and added a brushed brass ring handle crafted by artisans in India. We are OBSESSED. And it gets better:  Each bag still comes with the option of a chain strap so it can be worn 'hands-free' as needed. It's our new fave, hands-down!


GAIA Spring/Summer 2017

Colette and Sea Foam are the latest additions to the popular range of beaded necklaces. Opposites in some ways, they are both a neutral navy and white and they look great worn as a pair.

GAIA Spring/Summer 2017

Two cute new kittens joined the Mini Kitty litter for spring/summer. Dinah is made from hot pink ikat-style fabric with poms of lavender, orange, and green-gold. Tibbs is a purple and white checkered fabric with poms of peach, green, and hot pink. We think they are purr-fect.

Shop the entire GAIA spring/summer collection now. 

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GAIA x J.Crew!!

GAIA for J.Crew

As you might have seen on our Facebook or Instagram, GAIA products are now in select J.Crew stores all over the United States and abroad, as well as online.

It’s a big moment for us — one that was nearly a year in the making. We are beyond thrilled to see our beautiful handmade earrings, pompom bags, and hair ties (more on that later) under the J.Crew umbrella. It’s not something we aspired to, but the implications for our little brand are huge: More people find out about our products, which means more sales. But what’s meaningful about that is it means we get to hire more refugee women! And that’s why we’re here!

So how did this partnership happen? And how did a tiny brand with a tiny team working out of a 950-square-foot office pull off production of 6,200 individual handmade items? Sit tight and we’ll tell you.

GAIA Instagram

The Discovery

Last May, our founder Paula shared a photo of herself in a striped J.Crew dress on GAIA's Instagram account. Paula tagged J.Crew, along with her GAIA pieces. The company’s creative director, Jenna Lyons, saw the post and “liked” it, along with several other photos on our feed. She also shared a few of our images with members of her team. Which, of course, we didn’t know.

Cut to two months later, when we get an email from the brand buyer who oversees J.Crew’s partnerships with third-party brands, called "In Good Company". She told us that they’d anonymously ordered three Pom Pom bags and that they were obsessed with them. She said that Jenna had carried one to a wedding and loved it. She asked if we could make some samples for potential consideration for the spring 2017 collection.

Of course, we said yes!

They sent us some of their fabric yardage and we made 16 samples, using a mix of their fabrics and ours. They said they might use them in their September Fashion Week presentation in New York. (What!?)

We tried not to get our hopes up because they kept reminding us that the bags might not be used and that even if they were used that they might not be picked up for stores. All summer, our team struggled to keep our composure, knowing that we might appear at New York Fashion Week! We were still flying high just from the fact that Jenna was following us on IG — never mind that J.Crew was interested in our products!

Deep breaths, like, all the time.

 GAIA for J.Crew

GAIA for J.Crew

So then, lo and behold, Fashion Week rolls around, and on September 11, several styles of our Pom Pom bags show up in their presentation! We were freaking out, to put it mildly. But would they get picked up by stores? Would J.Crew actually place an order? We didn’t know. And we would have to wait. And wait. And wait.

We were getting nervous.

And then, about a month later, they finally reached out and said they’d taken so long because they loved all the bags and it was hard to choose!

The Order

When the order came, it was initially for three styles of Pom Pom bags.

Gaia for J.CrewGAIA for J.CrewGAIA for J.Crew 

But a few weeks later, the J.Crew accessories team emailed and asked if we could make hair ties with pom poms. We hadn’t done it before, but Bothina figured out the construction for the initial samples we were able to send the company an assortment of color combos.

Gaia for J.CrewGAIA for J.CrewGAIA for J.Crew

And then, when Paula went to New York and met with J.Crew buyers they saw her GAIA tassel earrings. They asked for samples and then chose three styles from our existing collection.

GAIA for J.CrewGAIA for J.Crew

The full order comprised 4,200 hair ties; 1,200 Pom Pom bags; and 400 pairs of earrings.

This was by far the largest order we’ve ever received. Now we had to figure out what it would take to fulfill it. We starting by plotting out how many of each item needed to be completed each week and compared it to existing resources. At that time we had six refugee artisans, and we quickly realized we needed triple that number.

So the team reached out to the International Rescue Committee, who began to recruit potential candidates. We held several interview sessions in our office before choosing the 12 women who were the best fit.

We then enlisted Alyssa to oversee production and Johnna to oversee sourcing. One of her biggest challenges was finding a reliable quality source for the elastic bands we needed to make hair ties.

Gaia for J.Crew

Gaia for J.Crew

Gaia for J.Crew

The Fulfillment

A big order like this one forces a little company to shore up. For GAIA that meant not only hiring more people, but also streamlining processes, putting system in place, and formalizing training.

Gaia for J.Crew

Volume was the challenge. Each Pom Pom bag has seven pompoms — we needed 8,400 pompoms for the bags — and each hair tie has two — which meant 8,400 more. And every GAIA pompom is made by hand. There were refugee women all over Dallas making pompoms nonstop for weeks! We knew we had the earrings down, it was just a matter of getting 800 individual pieces made. The hair ties were a little tricker, because we hadn’t done them before and our supplier was late delivering the elastic bands, which put us in a time crunch.

Gaia for J.Crew

Gaia for J.Crew

Ultimately, we were in the thick of things for more than a month — and it all got done only with the help of many, many volunteers. GAIA friends and family came to our office on multiple Saturdays to help us inspect each product and attach the hangtags hand-signed by our artisans. It was a family affair — Lauren J.’s mom flew in from California, both Paula’s mom and step-mom volunteered their time, and the husbands did their share as well! One friend of ours even threw a party at her house one evening where people did quality control. (Everything had to be perfect!) We all took home bags or ties to tag each night. A neighbor let us store the inventory in her office. Toward the end, we had to pull out all the stops!

And then we packed it all up and sent it to New York. Whew!

Gaia for J.Crew

The Fulfilling Things

This order was a turning point for GAIA. Whatever happens next, we grew so much from the experience.

Our hearts are warmed by the outpouring of support we received from every direction, and we are in awe at what an incredible partner J.Crew has been. They liked us for who we are, never asking us to change what we do or how we do it, fully believing in the mission behind our brand and showing us a lot of patience and grace when we needed it.

What has happened feels surreal at times. To know that J.Crew elected to use its massive international platform to feature a little company that exists to employ refugees and to bring awareness to refugees living in the United States is significant in many ways, especially in a time of anti-refugee sentiment. GAIA refugee artisans now have a world stage on which to shine.

We didn’t dream this dream that is now a reality, but we are forever grateful.

Gaia for J.Crew

J.Crew Order by the Numbers

18 refugees artisans
800 earrings
1,200 Pom Pom bags
4,000 tassels
4,200 pompom hair ties
16,800 pompoms

Gaia for J.Crew

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The Right Mother's Day Gift for Every Mom

Mother’s Day is around the corner, and you know what that means: time to find something pretty for your sweet momma. And GAIA's got all the moms covered.

Handmade products that support refugee women rebuilding their lives through meaningful work ring true with every type of mom — from crunchy do-gooder to corporate maven. Your mom is sure to take one look at the gift you give and know that she raised you right!

To make it easy on you, here are our recommendations for four types of moms, as well as a few of our favorite parenting books, since substance is just as important as style.

Earth Mother

Not only do her GAIA goodies help her go green, but they gather her granola and paraben-free lip balm so she can focus on composting and tree-hugging. Jessica Teich's Trees Make the Best Mobiles reminds moms to focus on being in the moment with their children and that kids don't need a bunch of "stuff."

 

GAIA Mother's Day Gifts

Posh Mom

Never without her shades or Chanel — or her chic GAIA purses to pull it all together. Meanwhile, Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne, keeps her grounded, showing her that sometimes less really is more — especially when it comes to raising kids.

 

GAIA Mother's Day Gifts

Mom Boss

She just poured herself another cup of ambition. GAIA pouches help a Type A momma stay organized so she can lean in in style. And because she knows that today's leaders are responsible for growing the leaders of tomorrow, she'll be excited to read Nina Tassler's collection of advice from powerful moms to the next generation of women, What I Told My Daughter.

 

GAIA Mother's Day Gifts

Sporty Mom

You can find her in the club — the country club, that is. GAIA bags hold her tees on the links and keep her cool by the pool, where you might find her reading Love Lives Here, Maria Goff's book on living a life driven by meaning, intention, and even whimsy.

Shop for your mom now!

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GAIA Refugee Mamas Share Their Thoughts for Mother's Day

GAIA Moms

Mother’s Day is right around the corner, and at GAIA we have lots of mammas. Most of the refugee women who make our purses, pouches, and other accessories are also raising littles.

Though they come from all over the world, they share an extraordinary resilience, strength, bravery, and commitment to making a better life for their children. They also share a universal perspective: Regardless of a woman's cultural background, language spoken, country of origin, or religious beliefs, being a mother is a universal experience that transcends boundaries. 

We believe that moms make the world go 'round, and we know that the challenges all mothers face can be multiplied when a mom is displaced from her home and finding her footing in a new country. We also believe that sharing the joys and difficulties of mothering with one another is helpful, so we asked our refugee artisans and apprentices to tell us a bit about their experiences since coming to the United States.

 

GaIA Refugee Women Feza

 Feza, Congolese Refugee and Mother of Three

Being a mother in the refugee camp was difficult because we didn’t have money to buy our kids what they needed, and they were bored all the time. Here in America, if they need something, I am able to buy it for them with my earnings. In fact, I just bought a house with a yard! Plus, my kids are much happier now because they have more to do and can go to school. 

 

GaIA Refugee Women Bothina 

Bothina, Syrian Refugee and Mother of Two 

My job as a mother changed when the crisis in Syria began. I had to protect them and keep them safe both physically and psychologically. I had to be there for them, to be strong in spite of our circumstances. I am so happy that they are now getting to grow up in the U.S. We’ve been here a year, and it’s been incredible to watch them evolve. Now my challenge as a mother is making sure they are integrating into American culture while also staying connected to their Syrian heritage. 

 

GAIA Refugee Women Huda

Huda, Syrian Refugee and Mother of Three 

We have a very happy family. I tried to raise my three children to be loving and tolerant of others. Because of the conflict in Syria, I haven’t seen two of my children in more than four years. One of my sons is in Germany. My daughter is in Turkey with her husband and a little granddaughter, whom I have never met. I have applied for a green card and am waiting on that. It will allow me to travel to visit them. I am happy that my son, Tamam, and his family are here in the U.S. with me and my husband. I don’t know what I would do without them. (Editor’s note: Bothina is Huda’s daughter-in-law.)

 

GAIA Refugee Women Catherin

 Catherin, Burmese Refugee and Mother of Four

My children have many more opportunities here in the U.S. than they had in the refugee camp. In the camp, they couldn’t learn a lot, so it would have been hard for them to become what they want. But here, they can become anything if they work hard. Last fall, I became a U.S. citizen. I did that mainly so that my children — Bambina, 14; Basolus, 10; Christopher, 6; and Juliana, 2 — would be U.S. citizens and have even more opportunities. (Editor’s note: When a parent becomes a naturalized U.S. citizen, that parent’s children also become naturalized citizens, as long as the children are under the age of 18, have green cards, and live with that parent.)

 

 

Kholoud, Syrian Refugee and Mother of Six

After we fled Syria, we spent three years in Jordan. Only one of my children was able to go to school there. That was difficult, so I am happy now that all my children are in school. I love watching them learn and grow into the people they want to be. Being a mother can be overwhelming at times, of course, especially because Western culture and traditions are all new to us.

 

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Gul, Afghan Refugee and Mother of One

I absolutely love being a mom to 2-year-old Amina. We love America, our family, learning English, and working! I am so fortunate that my own mother is here in the United States with us. She is deaf and we communicate through a sign language that we created on our own.

 

GAIA Refugee Women

 Narges, Afghan Refugee and Mother of Two

In Afghanistan, the schools are not great. The economy is not great. I am happy that I can raise my children here in the United States because I have big dreams for them! I want them to go to college and be doctors or engineers. Their opportunities for success are so much greater here!

 

GaIA Refugee Women

Izdehar, Syrian Refugee and Mother of Four

My favorite thing about being a mother is the perspective that it gives me on life. Having children helps me realize what’s really important in the world, and knowing that my children depend on me helps me stay strong when things get tough.

 

Ga

Esraa, Syrian Refugee and Mother of Four

The biggest thing for me is that motherhood has really helped me appreciate my own mother! (Editor’s note: Esraa is the mom on the left.)

Sarah, Iraqi Refugee and Mother of One

I feel like my role as a mother to Jenna, who is 3, is the most important role I will ever have. I believe that a loving and supportive mother can make the whole family strong. What's difficult for me right now is being a daughter. My mother is still in Iraq, and she is very ill. I can’t help care for her or even hug her. And I don’t know if I will ever get to do those things again. (Editor’s note: When we interviewed Sarah for this story, she could barely talk through her tears. Her heart breaks knowing that she may never see her mom again.)

 We wish these mamas — and all mamas around the world — a Happy Mother’s Day!

 

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Bothina Goes to Washington

Bothina Goes to Washington

“Members of the press are invited to join Congressman Marc Veasey, TX-33, and Bothina Matar, a Syrian refugee who resettled in the Dallas area with her family in 2015, as they share their thoughts on President Trump’s restrictive immigration policies and detail the positive contributions refugees make in their adopted homes.” Thus read a press release issued by the office of Congressman Veasey in late February.

The congressman’s office reached out to Bothina, who has been working at GAIA since 2016, and her husband on the recommendation of the International Rescue Committee after President Trump issued an executive order in late January reducing the number of refugees to be admitted into the United States in 2017 to 50,000; suspending the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days; and indefinitely suspending the entry of refugees and others from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

Bothina Goes to Washington

 

The press release went on to quote Congressman Veasey, stating: “It is beyond shameful that Republican elected officials and our president want to slam the door on refugees escaping violence. We can maintain America’s humanitarian leadership while keeping our nation safe, and Tamam and Bothina’s story highlights the positive result when we uphold both these ideals. Refugees like Tamam and Bothina are examples of the hope and contributions immigrants bring to their new homes.”

We, of course, couldn’t agree more.

Bothina says the decision to work with Congressman Veasey and speak to the press on behalf of Syrian refugees was not an easy one. She says she worried that she might say something that could be wrongly interpreted, and it took her a while to decide to say yes to his request. But her family was encouraging — they all thought it was a no-brainer — and so she accepted the challenge on behalf of Syrian refugees and her country. “I realized that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Bothina says. “I really felt I needed to go and show people who we are.”

To prepare for her trip to Washington, D.C., where she would not only speak at a press conference, but also attend President Trump’s first speech to a joint session of Congress, Bothina spent evenings doing research and writing her comments.

Bothina Goes to Washington

 

“I wanted to be sure that when I spoke I was articulate and succinct. I wanted to be able to back up my comments with statistics,” Bothina says. “I wanted to talk about the refugees who have come to the U.S., specifically the people whom I know and how they are working and raising their children. I wanted to point out that none of them are criminals and they don't want to cause any harm to America.”

Bothina’s husband, Tamam, accompanied her to Washington. Our founder, Paula, along with Lauren J. and Alyssa, also went along to provide moral support as Bothina put a human face to the resettled refugee experience in America. “I cannot think of a better person for the job,” Paula says.

Bothina Goes to Washington

 

The day and a half that Bothina spent in Washington was action packed. After dropping their bags at their hotel, she and Tamam went to lunch with the other ladies from GAIA. There she rehearsed what she would say during the press conference. “They were really supportive and helpful,” Bothina says. After the press conference, there was time for Bothina to change clothes before doing a television interview and attending a guest reception that preceded the joint session.

At the reception, Bothina says there were four or five other women wearing headscarves, and she met an Iraqi refugee whose father had been prohibited from coming to live with him. She also met House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The reception was exciting for Bothina. The joint session that followed was tough.

Bothina Goes to Washington

 

Bothina says she wasn’t seated close to any of the women she’d met at the reception and instead was surrounded by people who supported the president’s refugee ban — save for one man. Sitting quietly while others cheered each time the president spoke about fighting “radical Islamic terrorism” was extremely uncomfortable, Bothina says. “It seemed like there was no compassion, no consideration for those who were seated near them. I was crying on the inside,” she says. “I wanted to scream.”

The joint session lasted about 90 minutes, which was a long time to sit in what felt like a hostile environment. Bothina managed though, and at the end of a day that had begun at 4 a.m., she joined her husband at their hotel. 

The next day, before heading back to Texas, she and Tamam met with a staffer from Kentucky Representative Harold Rogers’s office and then went to the office of Texas Senator John Cornyn. Rogers’s staffer was well-versed in Middle Eastern politics and the existing refugee crisis. He was curious and engaged, Bothina says, but the visit with two women who worked for Senator Cornyn was disappointing.

“I wanted to emphasize that four months is a very long time for someone living in a refugee camp. I wanted to share with them that the situation was so dire, I thought about leaving the children with Tamam and attempting to go to Turkey on my own, risking my life to enter Europe illegally. I didn’t know what else I could do for my family, but they weren’t interested in knowing anything about that.”

Bothina Goes to Washington

Still, says Bothina, despite the challenges the experience presented, she would do it all again if asked. “If it’s going to help, I am going to do it again. I will do it as long as I feel it’s going to help.”

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Meet the GAIA Spring 2017 Interns

GAIA Spring Interns

It's a busy, busy time here at GAIA. We're preparing big orders and launching some pretty new spring things (check out our gorgeous new pillows and be on the lookout for a preppy-cool new line of pouches). So it's all hands on deck, including two great interns who are helping us stay on top of things.

What do GAIA interns do? Sometimes they're counting pompoms. Other times they're assisting with photos or dreaming up names for new products. Usually they're learning a little something about running a small business, and they're always ambassadors for the GAIA, helping us uphold our mission: creating beautiful style with purpose.

We're happy to introduce you to a couple of great Texas gals who are helping us get some big things accomplished this season.

GAIA Spring Interns

Name: Shelby Lynne Anders (pictured on the right)  

Age: 21  

Hometown: Kilgore, Texas  

School: Dallas Baptist University  

Class of: 2018  

Area of study: Business marketing with a focus in public relations and behavioral management  

Dream job: Editor-in-chief at Teen Vogue  

Why are you excited to be at GAIA? GAIA is one of a kind. The products, the artisans who make them, and the culture of GAIA is unique — especially in Dallas. I am ecstatic for the opportunity to encourage, empower, and walk alongside the gals of GAIA.  

What does “refugee” mean to you? Strong. I see such strength in the refugee women of GAIA. Their intellect, wisdom, determination, and laughter reveal an inner beauty that is timeless. Their journeys have not been easy, and the sacrifices they make are endless. And to be immersed in a culture that is not their own, to learn and thrive takes immense strength.  

Favorite GAIA product and why? I am obsessed with the Pom Pom bag. They make such a statement. In particular, the Lala is my favorite by far. It is whimsical yet neutral. I love the peachy poms — my absolute favorite color and print combo hands down.

GAIA Spring Interns 

Name: Ann Pollan

Age: 21

Hometown: Ennis, Texas

School: Pepperdine University

Class of: 2018

Area of study: To be determined (LOL!)  

Dream job: I consider myself to be very creative. I think my dream job would to be a creative director or something similar. I would love to be able to tell a story to an audience through clothing and furniture. I would also love to have my own clothing line.

Why are you excited to be at GAIA? I love the appearance of GAIA products. When I first saw GAIA products at Cabana and then heard the story of GAIA, I knew I wanted to intern or volunteer here. I was super excited to find a local brand that was very fashionable and had a great mission in my own backyard.

What does “refugee” mean to you? Survivor 

Favorite  GAIA product and why? I love the Cha Cha bag. I’ve been told big things come in small packages. That is how I feel about this bag. The bag is small, but between the fringe and the gold chain it will definitely be noticed. I am very petite, so the fringe clutch is a great size for me — and it’s perfect for date night. 

Interested in interning with GAIA? Email us at hello@gaiaforwomen.com.

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5 Children’s Books to Help You Talk About Refugees and Kindness 

 When we need to teach our children — or ourselves, for that matter — about a complex topic, we at GAIA turn to books. Reading is proven to open our minds and help us empathize with other people.

With the recent events concerning refugees in our country, our founder, Paula, wanted to sit down with her children and give them a glimpse into some refugee stories. She also wanted to remind them of the importance of making others feel welcome and loved in the world — and in their day-to-day lives. When she first shared these kid-friendly reads on Instagram Stories, our followers begged for more. 

So here ya go!

Children's Books

“Welcome,” by Barroux

A trio of polar bears finds themselves drifting out to sea in the French author’s simple, colorful book. At first, they are scared (who wouldn’t be!?), but relief sets in when they finally reach land. That is, until an inhospitable herd of cows forces them to move on — and that’s just the start of a series of rejections. What, oh what, will these bears do!? Buy it here.

Children's Books

“Stepping Stones,” by Margriet Ruurs

Told in Arabic and English and illustrated with the stone work of Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr, this little book tells the story of a family who flees their war-torn country and after a long, hard journey finds a new life in a new land. It’s a moving masterpiece with a message of hope. A portion from the sale of each book supports an organization that assists refugees. Buy it here.

Children's Books

“Lost and Found Cat,” by Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes

If you’re an animal lover, get ready to weep. The true story of Kunkush the cat inspires waterworks. A family flees Mosel with their beloved kitty cat secretly in tow and makes it a very long way with Kunkush. But when the family lands in Greece, Kunkush gets separated from his people. What happens later is nothing short of a miracle! Buy it here.

Children's Books

“Because Amelia Smiled,” by David Ezra Stein

Sweet Amelia wears a big grin on her face. She knows that she feels happy, but what she doesn’t know are the far-reaching effects that her smile will have on other people. David Ezra Stein does more showing than telling with his wonderfully detailed colored pencil illustrations. We never get tired of looking at this one. Buy it here.

Children's Books

“If You Plant a Seed,” by Kadir Nelson

This book had us at “bunny,” but its message is deeper than cuteness. The little brown fella in this book learns some important lessons about reaping what you sow — and the vast rewards of planting seeds of kindness. Buy it here.

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GAIA + Spring Break: 7 Perfect Travel Pairings

Spring break is in full swing in some parts of the country. In others, people are just packing up. To help you plan your vacation wardrobe, we (and a few of our fans) pair popular travel destinations with GAIA goods, handmade by refugee women who are rebuilding their lives in the United States.

GAIA Pom Pom Bag

Glamping in Marfa, Texas

The funky desert town of Marfa, Texas, is one of our personal favorite destinations. J.Crew’s Jenna Lyons spends time there each September, and in this month’s issue of Conde Nast Traveler, she shares with readers that on her most recent trip to this magical spot, she packed the GAIA Pom Pom bag we designed especially for J.Crew (available mid-April).

GAIA Tassel Necklace

Sightseeing in Pensacola, Florida

Julia Ussery, a boutique owner in the Florida beach town of Pensacola, pulled together a spring nautical look for Southern Living that incorporates our Cleo tassel necklace. Yes, the city has sand and surf, but it’s also a naval base. This casual yet polished outfit nods to that fact — and it’s perfect for an afternoon stroll downtown and the Museum of Art. 

GAIA Pom Pom Bag

Soaking in Sun in Cabo, Mexico

Something Beachy blogger Kelsey White shows us just how sexy a Pom Pom pouch can be when she hits the popular Mexico resort town of Cabo San Lucas wearing one of our bags made of African mud cloth with a shoulder-baring white dress. Her vacation picks appear this month on the fashion site Foray

GAIA Roundie Bag

Après-Ski in Beaver Creek, Colorado

Half the fun of going skiing is getting dressed to go skiing. The same goes for after the slopes. When you’ve had all the downhill you can take for one day and are ready to hit the town for snacks and shopping, round out the fashion scene with our Roundie (see what we did there?).

GAIA Tassel Earrings

Touring in Washington, D.C.

Part of our team recently visited the nation’s capital, which is a popular spring break destination. (Education doesn’t have to stop just because school’s not in session.) Travel light when touring important historical monuments and museums and accessorize with our Sunburst tassel earrings. Their playful style is a much-needed reminder to smile in a city that sometimes takes itself too seriously.

GAIA Cha Cha Bag

Shopping in Santa Monica, California

On the other side of the country, there’s quite the opposite sentiment. Our friends who live on the West Coast tell us it’s a bit like a permanent vacation. If spring break finds you in La La Land, there’s just one thing to do — OK, there are literally a million things to do, but hang with us — and that’s take our Cha Cha to the iconic Santa Monica Pier after an afternoon of retail therapy.

GAIA Crescent Clutch

Finding Bliss in Scottsdale, Arizona

The Wild West, as it turns out, is the ideal place to cultivate calm. Scottsdale, Arizona, is brimming with spa experiences designed to take you away from it all. Spend your days unwinding and refreshing with facials, massages, and more, and then venture out on the town for some serious eats with a GAIA Crescent clutch.

Marfa image by Paul Joseph via Creative Commons

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