Burmese refugee women, living in the shadow of oil prosperity in Midland, Texas. Frequently isolated and alone, they often lack the language and cultural skills needed to become a part of the local community.
A fashionable boutique-quality children’s clothing line, designed by American women and handmade by our Burmese friends working from home. We will build relationships and community while enabling them to earn supplemental income for their families.
Our fall line is being designed now. The Launch Party will be in late summer with house parties to view collections and place orders throughout the fall.
We’re starting in West Texas, with the first parties in the Midland/Odessa area. We’ll expand to other areas as we are able.
These brave women and their families have experienced much loss and unfathomable heartache. They bring wisdom and perspective to our community, and as Christians, we are called to “welcome the stranger.”
We need you! We need people to host parties, donate supplies and sponsor equipment. Please take a few moments to read this proposal packet and see how you can get involved!
When we see the Chin refugees from Burma in our community, stocking shelves at HEB or cleaning floors at WalMart, we often don’t stop to think about where they have come from. According to a report by Human Rights Watch (quoted in a 2010 BBC article), the Chin people have faced “forced labour, torture, rape, arbitrary arrest and extra-judicial killings as part of a Burmese government policy to suppress the Chin people and their ethnic identity.” Over 90 percent Christian, the Chin face religious persecution as well. According to a US State Department report, “Burmese troops and officials have tried to forcibly convert the Chin from Christianity to Buddhism. They have also destroyed churches, and arrested and even killed Christian Chin clergy, who now often work undercover.” In addition to religious and ethnic persecution, the Chin have faced acute food shortages and no medical care. Fleeing these conditions has taken the Chin refugees first to neighboring countries in Southeast Asia and then to the United States. Ultimately, they come to Midland, Texas because of the abundance of jobs. While work is readily available, many of the women are isolated at home by themselves for long hours, left alone caring for small children and nursing painful memories. Can you imagine the loneliness? The trauma, fear, and the confusion they face when they arrive in this West Texas community? Can you imagine trying to make your own way in a new country where you don’t speak the language and don’t understand the local customs? After meeting some of the women in the local Chin community, we knew we wanted to get more involved. In addition to building friendships, we wanted to help them in a practical way as well. We launched the Scarlet Threads Chin Collection to provide Burmese Chin refugee women with supplemental income, marketable skills, and a growing sense of belonging right here in our community.
An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet...
...The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break.
A Chinese Proverb
Our name, Scarlet Threads. represents the ways we are all connected. No matter what country we call home or what our background may be, we care about the same things — our children and our families. When you support Scarlet Threads, you become intricately connected to the woman behind the stitches. You give her the chance to provide for her family. You are tied, with a scarlet red thread, to a person just like you.
Map of Burma/Myanmar. Inset map shows Chin State, the region all the Burmese refugees living in Midland come from. Retrieved from www.nationsonline.org and Wikipedia. News article citation: Bagnall, Sam. (2010, April 19). Burma’s ‘forgotten’ Chin people suffer abuse. The BBC. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk.
In 2009, Carrie and Jacob McKean launched Scarlet Threads while living in China and working at an orphanage. In a rural area home to many farmers, taxi drivers and laborers, they noticed the shortage of meaningful employment options for women, and they saw the dire consequences of poverty affect families in their village. Knowing the proud local people would prefer an opportunity rather than a handout, they began seeking ways to respond to the needs around them by providing work rather than charity. After meeting a talented local seamstress, they launched Scarlet Threads, a small social enterprise dedicated to connecting talented local artisans with a global market. By enabling the artisans to work from home while caring for their families, paying a generous and fair wage, and giving back to local development and orphan care efforts, Scarlet Threads began empowering their partner artisans to meet their families’ and community’s needs. After returning to the USA in 2011, the McKeans moved to Midland and grew aware of the local Burmese refugee population and the challenges they faced. Believing that the Scarlet Threads model could have a positive impact in a local setting, Carrie joined forces with Mellie Jordan, a talented woman with a penchant for designing children’s clothing, and Lori Blong, a gifted seamstress, to develop a Scarlet Threads line produced right here in Midland, Texas. We have the experience, ideas, passion and drive to see Scarlet Threads flourish as a self-sustaining, economically-empowering and community-building project in Midland. We’ve teamed up with a talented group of Burmese women, and we are looking forward to launching our first collection in the Fall of 2013.
The Chin Collection, a custom children’s clothing line, is in development right now, and our partner seamstresses are learning patterns and improving their sewing techniques. We plan to start home parties in the early fall, where we will preview the line and invite guests to order custom pieces for their children. Items will be highly customizable, allowing customers to select fabric, sizes, appliqué patterns and other personalization options. We will launch our home parties in Midland and Odessa, and we are looking for hostesses. As a hostess, you will invite 30-40 of your friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues to a party at your home to enjoy light refreshments and learn about the Chin Collection and the Burmese refugees living in our community. Guests will be able to see sample products, meet the seamstresses and place orders. If you are interested in serving as a hostess, please e-mail us at [email protected]
After the fall launch of the Chin Collection, we will continue to have seasonal collections, hopefully expanding the line and increasing the number of seamstresses in our project. But we dream about more than a sewing business. We envision a full-fledged, community-based refugee support center, providing ESL classes, introduction to the local community and culture, emergency assistance and a mentoring program matching American and Chin families so that Chin families will have at least one local friend who can help them navigate through often-confusing adjustment periods while offering local families the opportunity to learn about a new culture and way of life right here in Midland. We hope this support center also doubles as a Scarlet Threads Chin Collection store, providing more opportunities to employ Chin women and helping them find a new sense of belonging in our local community.
Du Chin Du was born June 8, 1995, in Lung Ler, Chin State, Burma. Her father was a Chin political leader in Burma and fled to Malaysia when she was 4 months old. She lived with her paternal grandparents, and when she was 11 years old, her mother joined her father in Malaysia. On January 23, 2007, after her parents had successfully saved the money to hire a guide for their journey, Du, along with her brother and aunt, left Burma for a week-long journey to Malaysia. Their group had 52 people in all, including 4 babies and 5 children, and they made much of the 900 mile journey on foot, traveling under the cover of darkness to avoid Thai authorities. Arriving in the USA April 23, 2009, Du, her mom, and her brother settled in Dallas for nearly 2 years before moving to Midland. A 2013 honor’s graduate of Midland Lee High School who learned to speak English during her high school years, Du now plans to attend UTPB where she will pursue her dream of becoming a doctor so she can provide medical care to her people in their own language.
Aye Mint Aye was born June 29, 1972, in Lung Ler, Chin State, Burma. At 19 years old, she married her husband through an arranged marriage. They had two children, Du Chin, another of our other seamstresses, and a son. In 2005, Aye joined her husband, a Chin political leader who left Burma in 1995, in Malaysia where she worked in restaurants and sewing factories until she saved up enough money for her children and sister to make the journey as well. Her family was reunited in Malaysia, but sadly a few months after her children arrived, her husband fell ill with cancer. He passed away 6 months before the family received refugee visas to move to America. Recently widowed, Aye courageously moved her children to a new country and supported them as they began American high school. She moved the family to Midland because of the Chin community and the job opportunities, and she now works as a cable assembler for a local company. A proud mother of two high school graduates who are now college-bound, Aye’s dream for the future is that she will learn to speak English more fluently so that she can serve as a translator for other members of her Chin community. Tum Hnem Tum was born February 2, 1964, in Lung Ler, Chin State, Burma. She and her husband were farmers, raising their 5 children in their little village and living off the land. But the Burmese military began forcing them to grow cash crops for military use, rather than food for their family, and they no longer had enough to eat. Eventually deciding they could no longer survive in Burma, Tum and her husband, Lal Biak, walked from Chin state to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with their 5 children, the youngest of whom was 10 years old at the time. The journey took the family 14 days, and there were 40 people in their group. They arrived in Malaysia in 2008 and in 2010 received refugee visas for the USA. They were resettled to California and moved to Midland on March 5, 2013. Now Tum, Lal, and 3 of their children live in Midland. One of her children remains in California and the other lives in Dallas, but Tum is thankful her whole family is in the USA. Dawt Dim Dawt was born January 1, 1977, in Tlang Lo, Chin State, Burma. The youngest of 7 children, Dawt’s parents were farmers. In 2002, Dawt joined a group of 7-10 people and traveled to India by bus, train, and foot. The journey took her 10 days. She met her husband Steven, a fellow Chin refugee, in India and gave birth to her first son on February 25, 2005. In 2009, the family moved to Malaysia, and in 2011, they were granted refugee status in the USA. After living in Dallas for 1 month, Dawt and her husband moved to Midland because they heard there were jobs. But a few months later, her husband quit his job so that he could be a full-time pastor for one of the local Chin churches. Dawt had another son in Midland, and she takes care of their children while her husband spends much of his time taking care of their Chin community, serving as translator for everything from immigration appointments to doctor’s visits.
Thank you to First Presbyterian Midland for funding the purchase of 3 sewing machines and a serger and to First Baptist Midland for providing meeting and storage space.
Ultimately we want the Scarlet Threads Chin Collection to be a self-sustaining endeavor. But as we get started, we need some seed investments to fully launch this project. If you are interested in partnering with us, here are some of our practical needs. • We need approximately $2,000 in cash to buy more start-up supplies to prepare for our fall line. Most of this could also given in the form of Fabric.com, Hancock Fabrics or Hobby Lobby Gift Certificates, though we do need some funds to buy blank t-shirts, gowns and onesies for the collection. We need a fabric dye cutter, such as a Silhouette Cameo or a Cricut Expressions, to cut appliqué designs. The donation of a good-quality used machine would also be most appreciated (Approximate new cost: $300). We need an embroidery machine so that we can include monogramming and embroidery in our customization options. We are open to the donation of a good-quality used machine (Approximate new cost: $3,000-$5,000). We have a list of notions and other sewing supplies that we still need to purchase. We can provide this list upon request, as it changes frequently. We need people to host parties and invite their friends, family and colleagues. We need child-sized dress forms, nice hangers, display racks, packaging materials and other supplies to prepare for our home parties
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Please e-mail us at [email protected]
or call 432.349.4601 to discuss any of these needs. More than anything, we ask for your prayers, ideas, connections and wisdom as we launch this project.
As we move toward our launch date, we want to stay connected with anyone interested in supporting this project. Please visit our website or blog, like us on Facebook, or e-mail us and let us know you want to be informed of upcoming events.
www.scarletthreads.org | [email protected]