I have been in my new job, Program Coordinator for The Community Cloth, now for almost a month. I have to tell you all about it and how amazingly it all came to be! I also wanted to remind myself of a time in my life when God chose to provide and answer quickly because most times I just wish he would hurry up. :)
In early February (2/7 was the day I have in my prayer journal) Cason and I began praying. I had found such great contentment and satisfaction (and brokenness and challenges to my selfishness!) in my role as a stay-at-home mom. Madeleine was about 15 or 16 months old at that time, and we just started praying, basically "God, if there is something out there that Allison could be doing that would work with the strengths you've given her, be a worthwhile endeavor, help our family out a bit financially and not disrupt our schedule with Madeleine too much, please show us. If You want her to continue to be a solely stay-at-home mom, she is fine with that too. Guide us, please." Days later my friend and former co-worker Josh (was at Family Services, now at Neighborhood Centers) contacted me. He is on the board of the parent organization Our Global Village, of which The Community Cloth is a program. He told me they were growing and they were going to be doing a part-time, work-from-home hire, (!!!) and would I be interested in meeting the co-founders and some other board members to see if this would be a good fit? Yes! I was very interested, so Roxanne and Quynh-Anh (the co-founders), Josh and myself all met at Central Market for lunch toward the end of February. We had a great time at lunch and really hit it off. With every bit I learned about the Community Cloth program, the more I was impressed and excited! They explained to me that the position wouldn't begin until mid-summer, if this all worked out. (Perfect! I can finish my "school year" of ESL and other commitments, have time to get used to the idea and make plans for Madeleine.)
In the meantime, we continued to get to know each other. I helped Roxanne with an event in mid-March, and we met again for lunch. The more we talked the more excited we got. God aligned things so perfectly. Roxanne mentioned the fact that a lot of our refugee women don't speak English, but she wasn't worried about me communicating with them as best I could because I had just been an ESL teacher! Things like that kept lining up. Small world - we even found out our parents live in the same neighborhood, and her parents live next-door to my aunt and uncle! Crazy. By early April, she and the Board had written up a job description for me and extended an offer. I accepted April 17, with a start date of July 1. While in some ways it was hard to wait to begin, I was able to really enjoy those couple of months and prepare for what was to come. At the beginning of July, Madeleine had just turned 20 months and was really excited about and ready for two days/week of being up at church. (She was already used to being there during the week while I taught ESL.) Mom has remained flexible and available to pinch-hit on other days when I might need help or coverage, but so far that two days a week (plus my night/weekend events or working when Mads has gone to bed) has worked out just fine!
What am I doing? Well it changes day-to-day which is fun and good for me. Roxanne is the captain, I am the first mate, and we have a wonderful working Board and fantastic volunteers that help keep this thing going (and have been so kind to answer all my questions along the way!) Some of my jobs and tasks include communications for the program, coordinating volunteers, helping with media coverage, assisting with product development for the artisans, finding good, mutually beneficial partnerships for Community Cloth, helping the artisan women to develop their own small business skills, designing communications pieces, donor cultivation...and lots in between!
I love this organization. I love having more multi-cultural interactions on a week-to-week basis, with our refugee women and our partner organizations. I love that Community Cloth has so many angles and facets - philanthropy, business, art, fashion, culture...it's just amazing how easy it is for so many to fall in love with it, no matter what their interests are. I love that the artisan women get 100% of everything we sell. If Moo Htoo sells a scarf for $35, all $35 goes directly to her. I love coming in on the ground level and my opinions being trusted and heard. I love getting to do big-picture planning and strategy along with meeting these women face-to-face, hearing their stories and spending time on the "front lines" as well. I love that our umbrella organization, Our Global Village is all about empowering grassroots leaders all over the world. I am so, so blessed.
We have been busy! If you'd like more information about some of our recent events, please click on the links below!
Houston Chronicle, 7/22/12, Business Section: Women bring their homelands to the Houston market
CultureMap, 7/22/12, Chloe Dao & Mandy Kao team up for a fun-filled, shopping-themed fundraiser
CultureMap, 5/23/12, The Art of Survival: Weaving Home reveals the courage of Houston's Karenni refugees in cloth
And, of course our website is www.thecommunitycloth.org. I am going to be working heavily on updates and revamping for our busy fall season!
If you are reading this and have made it this far, it's probably because this cause has tugged at your heartstrings as well. If you want to get more involved, here are some things you can do:
- Attend our volunteer training event on August 16th at 6 p.m. in our studio space at Baker Ripley. I will be going through all the ways you can get involved.
- Host a party in your home - this is the main source of income for our refugees. We make this really easy - large or small group, we would love to bring and set up our product in your home and are happy to make a presentation and answer questions. Depending on their schedules, sometimes we can bring one of our artisans as well! This is so much fun for the holiday season, but contact me quickly - our calendar is already getting full. (Special thanks to my sweet friends Brooke Richards and Katie Holt for already booking a party in late October, as well as my mom for hosting one in early November!)
- Shop for our items with our retail partners - we have product in Kuhl-Linscomb, the Methodist Hospital gift shop, the Houston Museum of Natural Science gift shop and One Green Street (moving to the Heights)
- Make a donation to Our Global Village. We rely on donations and grants for all of our operating costs (such as purchasing high-quality yarn in bulk/discounted so our artisans can buy it from us as they need it as well as other infrastructure)
- Follow us on twitter (@communitycloth) and join our facebook group (The Community Cloth) for the quickest, up-to-the minute information. We post a lot about upcoming events and new products that are for sale. Our women are artists, and they make what they want when they want. Sometimes we will have a large quantity of something, but most of the time we don't. If you want something you have to snatch it!
I love this picture of Roxanne and I from the event at Chloe Dao's store.
photo by Carlos Pena
Why do I always lean in for pictures? Stand up straight, Al! photo by Ghulam Kehar