We currently have about 11 artisans involved in making One World Artisans goods. Below are a few of their stories. To start, read more to learn about Balighah, the Team Leader of One World Artisans and the person you will typically meet when you make a purchase at the One World Artisans cart!
Balighah – Yemen
Balighah is a single mother of two from Yemen. She came to the US in 2011 as a refugee, lived in California for a year and then moved to Utica in 2012. Her cousin lives in Utica as well. Many people told her that she would have a difficult time in the US because she was a single mother saying, “You should go back to your country.” When Balighah first arrived in the United States, she needed an interpreter everywhere she went. She pushed herself to study hard to be able to communicate without an interpreter. To accelerate this, she took classes at BOCES to learn English when she came to Utica. Now, she is an interpreter herself.
Balighah is currently studying to get her GED diploma and working on attaining citizenship. One thing that she continuously reminds herself is that she wants to stand on her own two feet, and explains, “if you don’t help yourself, no one is going to help you. You have to be patient, you have to have faith and you have to have goals.” Today Balighah has friends from all over the world and has built a multicultural network, all because of the cultural diversity of Utica.
How Balighah Got Involved
Balighah first got involved with One World Artisans when she met Jennifer, an employee of the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees, who was looking to start a microbusiness for women. Her first time making jewelry was with Jennifer at MVRCR. Balighah loves jewelry and most of the jewelry she makes uses materials that age well over time. Her crafts emulate pieces that she loves. She often emulates designs from photographs she’s taken, adding her own techniques in the process. Balighah honed much of her skills by watching Youtube videos.
Being a part of One World Artisans has allowed Balighah to become aware of the many benefits of working in a business. Through the program, Balighah states that she has been able to meet many new people in the community and learn about more opportunities for her personal development. She enjoys the freedom that One World Artisans gives her to express her own creativity. One day, Balighah hopes to open her own business using the skills she has developed while working with One World Artisans as its foundations.
Chambang – South Sudan
Chambang is a photographer. He is originally from what is now South Sudan. He came to the United States in 1995 to live with relatives in Rochester, NY. Chambang moved to Utica in 2005 and attended SUNY IT where he studied sociology. He bought his first camera in Africa, but gave it away before coming to the United States. As soon as he arrived in the States, Chambang began taking pictures again, starting with a small film camera and small digital camera. He eventually sent these smaller cameras to friends in Africa and bought himself a larger one. The subjects of Chambang’s photography are people. Chambang says it makes him feel good to get to know people, what they like and take photographs that make people happy.
What started as simply a love for photography and a fun pastime soon proved to be much more lucrative. As Chambang began to show people his photographs they would comment on his talent and offer to pay him for his photos. The first person to pay Chambang for his work was a member of his church who needed a photographer for her wedding. After this, he began receiving more requests to photograph weddings and special events. Chambang says that unlike in Rochester, in Utica so many people do not know him. Chambang would like to continue to grow his craft and become well recognized within the community.
In addition to photography, Chambang works with the disabled as a Resident Counselor at Upstate Cerebral Palsy.
Check out this personal portfolio at: naathimagestudio.com
Samia – Sudan
Samia is from Khartoum, Sudan but it’s been 17 years since she’s been there. Samia lived in a refugee camp in Cairo, Egypt for 8 years before coming to Utica in 2008. While living in this camp, she learned how to make jewelry, a skill she now hones with One World Artisans. Today she lives with her husband and four children in Utica.
Samia first learned about One World Artisans when an MVRCR employee made a pitch about it in her English class. She loves to work because it allows her to have some financial independence. In her home country women were not allowed to work, so she especially appreciates the opportunity to do so now. When asked where she sees herself in five years, Samia stated that she sees herself continuing to work with One World Artisans, but envisions that the program will be greatly improved by then. In order to make these improvements, Samia commented that all of the artisans would need to commit themselves to working hard and in cohesion.
As an artisan, Samia is currently involved in making jewelry and creating henna tattoos. When making jewelry, she prefers to make double-draped necklaces using colorful beads. In addition to her current crafts, she loves to bake and to draw landscapes. She hopes to one day bring these talents to One World Artisans. Samia enjoys developing new skills and encourages feedback.
Wafaa – Iraq
Wafaa was born in Baghdad, Iraq. She lived there for most of her life until the war began, leaving with her family in 2008 in search of a safer yet near place to live. At the time, this safer and near place was Syria, where she and her family stayed for nearly a year. With the advice of relatives, Wafaa and her family decided to move to Cyprus, where they stayed for 6 years. In Cyprus, they were met with contempt from the natives and ended up moving again because the government was unwilling to assist them in getting their right to live in the country. Wafaa and her family had no choice but to leave Cyprus for a country where they could make a better life. In search of this better life, they migrated to Indonesia.
In Indonesia, Wafaa started taking lessons to make crafts. She also taught her daughters how to make things. As a matter of fact, she soon found that with time they were getting better than her at making things! In 2016, Wafaa and her family were chosen to live in America while some of her extended family members were chosen to go to Australia. Shortly after, she and her family arrived in Utica.
When they arrived, all of Wafaa’s children (four daughters and one son) either found jobs or enrolled in school. She realized that she also needed to do something for herself. Soon after, she learned about One World Artisans from a friend. She really liked the idea of working as an artisan, so she happily joined the team. As an artisan, Wafaa primarily makes jewelry, table runners, and crocheted items. She learned how to make these items while in Indonesia. In fact, many of her designs are inspired by her time there. Since beginning work with One World Artisans, Wafaa has found the program to be helpful in giving her a sense of purpose. In fact, she says it is her favorite thing to do! In the next few years Wafaa hopes to either start her own business or to still be working with One World Artisans.
Rian – Sudan
Rian is originally from Sudan. Since the country was taken over by war, she and her family fled to a refugee camp in Indonesia, where they lived for 3 years. Although this was very different from her home, she appreciated that Indonesia was much safer. Since the end of 2016, Rian has been living in Utica with her husband and two children―and has another on the way! Most of her extended family remains in Sudan.
Rian first learned about One World Artisans from a friend. She enjoys working here because it is an opportunity for her to do what she loves―design. Currently, Rian is primarily a henna artist. In the future she hopes to expand her skillset to other crafts, such as jewelry making. Rian believes that with teamwork, One World Artisans has the potential to one day become its own company where anyone with a talent can be helped. One day, she hopes to continue to strengthen her English skills and go back to school to finish college.
Doris – Puerto Rico
Doris was born in Chicago, IL, where she lived until she was about five years old. After a little while, Doris and her parents left the U.S. to live in Puerto Rico, where Doris spent the majority of her life. She loved it there, and loved to learn new things. This is also where she first began making crafts. People loved her work so much that she was able to make some money selling the things she made. In fact, she was able to land a job when a factory owner saw Doris making crafts at her kids’ school art show. Unfortunately, she was forced to stop working in order to care for her son, who had become very ill. Because the hospitals in Puerto Rico were not very adept at handling her son’s condition, and with the advice of friends and family, Doris decided to move back to the U.S. in order for her son to receive better treatment.
Although she has only been here since mid-2016, Doris has been able to make a better life for herself and her family. While she did have some knowledge of English that she learned as a young child, much of what she knew has been lost over time. In order to improve her English, she is now taking English classes at the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees. This was also where she got back into making things after joining One World Artisans. As an artisan, Doris primarily makes crochet items, including hats, scarves, gloves, phone carriers and baby clothing.She loves working with One World Artisans because it allows her to earn extra money doing the thing she loves to do. In order to improve the program, Doris would like to see One World Artisans bring in more artisans who do similar crafts to hers. In the future she hopes to either have her own business or continue working with One World Artisans.