GAIA was founded with the mission of providing dignified work & a living wage to refugee women who have resettled in Dallas. GAIA's Refugee Artisans are a diverse group of talented women who have developed & refined the skills & techniques needed to craft our fashion & home accessories. Each of these women embodies the spirit of our brand & all of the beauty we seek to create through them is also for them.
Catherin was the first refugee woman to join the GAIA family. She is a Burmese refugee who arrived in Dallas in 2009 with her young children after spending over 10 years in a refugee camp in Thailand. Not long after arriving, Catherin lost her husband to liver disease. She is the sole provider for her three incredibly bright children, who know every word to every song on the radio, and who will add dance moves to their singing if given proper floorspace. Their constant laugher and radiant smiles are a testament to their mother's unwavering spirit. Catherin is one of the bravest women we know.
Get to know Catherin and learn more of her story here
Maria, a Burmese refugee, arrived in the United States in 2009 after spending 13 years in a refugee camp with her husband and three young children. She covers her modest living room walls with pictures of her growing boys, who have all inherited her hilariously dry sense of humor and have been known to prank us when we call…
Maria and Catherin are good friends and their children play together often. When the whole gang gets together, mischief inevitably ensues, reminding us of the beautiful universality of children at play.
Get to know Maria and learn more of her story here
Born in Tunisia, Latifa arrived to the U.S. as a refugee from her husband's native country of Iraq in 2010. She was a seamstress for one of the largest clothing manufacturers in Jordan, where she lived nine years prior to moving to the U.S. Latifa loves to sew, but she lives to cook! She spoils her hardworking husband with homemade bread, fresh hummus, and other delicacies that we often get to enjoy if we time our visits right... Latifa dreams of someday opening her own daycare or even her own clothing shop selling the traditional prayer dresses she used to sew back in Jordan. We love her entrepreneurial spirit and her frequent hugs.
Get to know Latifa and learn more of her story here
In 1997, Feza escaped the devastation of her community in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and took shelter in refugee camps in both Tanzania and Zambia. She boarded a plane to the U.S. with her husband and three children in 2012, ready to start a new, peaceful life. In addition to her husband and children, Feza also cares for her disabled sister-in-law. Her greatest hope is that her children receive an education.
Get to know Feza and learn more of her story here
Bothina, along with her husband and two children, escaped war-torn Syria in 2013. After two years of losing loved ones to the violence and fearful for their own lives, they made the difficult decision to leave their home in one day. With the few belongings they could carry, the family traveled for days, spending time in a refugee camp before finally reaching neighboring Jordan. Traumatized and unsure of what to do next, they found asylum in Jordan, but were unable to find work. They were eventually granted refugee status and began the extensive vetting process to become resettled in the U.S. Finally, in December of 2015, Bothina and her family arrived to Dallas where they joined her in-laws and set out to rebuild their lives and begin anew. We were honored to welcome Bothina and her mother-in-law, Huda, to the GAIA family in January of 2016.
Get to know Bothina and learn more of her story here
Huda and her husband left Syria in late 2012, fleeing the growing violence to seek medical treatment for her husband. They found a safe haven in Jordan, where they only expected to stay temporarily for a month or two. However, shortly after their arrival, their home in Syria was destroyed and the conflict had worsened, so they were forced to stay in Jordan. Huda was joyfully reunited with her son, daughter-in-law Bothina, and two grandchildren in Jordan several months later, and finally were resettled together in the U.S. in late 2015.
Get to know Huda and learn more of her story here
Marzia was only a child when her parents moved their family from Afghanistan to Pakistan to escape civil war. She arrived in the United States in March 2016 with her husband, her daughter, and her hearing-impaired mother-in-law, whom she helps care for. Marzia attended school only to the third grade. Financial pressures on her family meant she needed to go to work sewing clothes. Now that she’s in the U.S., her dream is to complete her education. Marzia comes to work every day wearing outfits she has sewn from happy patterns and bright colors. We love her shy smile, sweet voice, and can-do attitude.
Along with her husband and their six children, Kholoud arrived to the United States from Jordan in June 2016. She and her family fled Syria after Kholoud and several of her family members were injured when a bomb struck their home. They lived in Jordon for three years. It was there that she met an American woman who taught her how to sew and who would eventually help her family get to the U.S. Kholoud has a smile that lights up the room, but the brightest we’ve ever seen it was when she passed her driver’s test! She drove right over to the office with chocolates to celebrate.
Izdehar lived with her husband, their four children and her husband’s parents for four years in Jordan after fleeing Syria. Relocating to the United States in July 2016 was a difficult decision, because she left many people she loves behind. Her in-laws were encouraging, however, and her brother and his family are also resettled refugees. They live in Maryland. Izdehar always brings at least one of her children to her weekly visits to the GAIA office, who know to head straight for our office toy chest.
Manar was an English teacher in her native Syria. Somewhere along the way she learned to make the perfect pompom. Her poms are so perfect, in fact, that they are the only ones we’ll use for our Pom Pom earrings! Manar resettled in Dallas with her husband and their three daughters in 2016, after living as refugees in Jordan for more than three years. She’s delighted that her girls now have a chance to be well educated and to have good work that lets her express her fun-loving personality.
As GAIA grows, so does our ability to employ more skilled artisans who are adept at sewing & jewelry making. Our Apprentices are Artisans in training. In order to assist them in developing the expertise they need to be a successful contributing member of the GAIA team, we pair each apprentice with a mentor who provides direction & feedback. When training a new Apprentice, it is everyone's goal to see her succeed, & we believe that sense of companywide encouragement is key to our brand culture & identity.