Meet the Artisans
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 in September of 2009. She is a Burmese refugee who arrived in Dallas in May of 2009 with her 2 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 has since remarried, welcomed 2 more children to her family, and in 2017, purchased her very first home! Catherin also became a naturalized U.S. Citizen in September of 2015, and her 2 older children have since earned their citizenship as well. Catherin and her family are true testaments to the resilience, perseverance, and unwavering spirit of resettled refugees in America.
Get to know Catherin and learn more of her story here
Maria, a Burmese refugee, has been part of the GAIA family since December of 2009. She arrived in the United States earlier that year after spending 13 years in a refugee camp with her husband and three young children. She became a first-time home-owner in 2017, in the same neighborhood as her close friend (and fellow GAIA artisan) Maria loves her new home, and covers the 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…
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. In June of 2015, we watched Latifa take her oath to become a naturalized United States Citizen! She 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. She became a first-time home-owner in 2016, and recently welcomed a precious baby girl in early 2018! Her greatest hope is that her four children receive an education, and go on to achieve their dreams in the United States.
Get to know Feza and learn more of her story here
Buthayna, 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, Buthayna 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 Buthayna and her mother-in-law, Huda, to the GAIA family in January of 2016.
Get to know Buthayna 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.
Get to know Marzia and learn more of her story here
Saja arrived in the United States from Baghdad, Iraq, in December 2014, after spending nearly two years in a refugee camp in Turkey. She and her husband welcomed their first child into the world at that camp. They had their second child on U.S. soil. Saja worked with Melt Goods before joining the GAIA team in January 2018 — and we are so lucky to have her! She is the only one of our refugee artisans who knows how to work with the brass we use for our earrings. She cuts, sands, and polishes each piece of metal by hand, paying close attention to detail and creating absolutely beautiful work.
Get to know Saja and learn more of her story here
Manar was an English teacher in her native Syria. 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.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!
Forat and her family first came the to U.S. in 2012 but their stay wasn’t long. The pain of leaving their home and family in Iraq was unbearable and the isolation of resettling into a new country without knowing the language led them to make the decision to return to Iraq. In 2014, Forat’s family officially resettled in Dallas, Texas, along with her brother-in-law’s family. Adjusting to a new culture and learning a new language has been difficult, but for her children and her personal growth, Forat tenaciously took these new hurdles in stride. After graduating from VTC, where she honed her english and sewing skills, Forat found her way to us. Her laugh radiates through our cottage and she quickly welcomes a new face with her hilarious stories. Forat fits seamlessly into our little GAIA family!
Get to know Forat and learn more of her story here
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.
Shaza - Syria
Narges - Afghanistan
Sarah - Iraq
Mu Mu - Burma
Shway Paw - Burma