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The portraits below are part of an exhibition curated by Louise E. Shaw for the David J. Sencer CDC Museum entitled Resettling in America: Georgia’s Refugee CommunitiesThe exhibition uses documentary photography, personal testimonies, and artwork to explore the challenges of resettlement and the resiliency of refugees living in metropolitan Atlanta as they build new lives, identities, and a sense of community.


+ Faces of CDC

james-sudan

James Yai, Janitorial Services Technician

Country of Origin: South Sudan

CDC since 2015

One of thousands of “Lost Boys” resettled from Sudan in 2001, James was torn from his family at an early age. Determined to avoid conscription as a child soldier in the war between North and South Sudan, James walked for months across three countries seeking safe haven. After nine years at Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp, James traveled halfway across the globe to Clarkston, Georgia, where he settled into a flat with five other Lost Boys. While juggling multiple jobs, James started working toward an undergraduate degree in counseling and human services. He became a U.S. citizen in 2007.

Informed by his own life experiences as a child of war, James is now pursuing a master’s degree in social work to help children process the psychological and social effects of trauma resulting from war, poverty, or abandonment. He is passionate about his vocation, noting: “So many children are alone and need someone to talk to. Being someone that people are comfortable talking to is a skill.” When not at work or at school, James enjoys relaxing with friends – debating African politics at his favorite pub or playing a round of dominoes.

James has not yet been able to return to Sudan to reconnect with the family he was forced to abandon in 1987. Still, James remains hopeful of someday reuniting with kin and forging scattered ties.


abraham-sudan

Abraham Deng Ater, MPH, Health Research Analyst

Country of Origin: South Sudan

CDC since 2012

Between 2001 and 2002, thousands of Sudanese “Lost Boys” were resettled across 38 U.S. states. Abraham was one of them. He arrived in Tucson, Arizona in 2001, after spending 14 years in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. Abraham published a memoir My Lost Childhood that reflects on the suffering he endured in the late 1980s, when Sudan’s Islamic government began to systematically torture and kill Southern Sudanese families, burn their villages, and enslave young boys and girls. His escape from persecution and subsequent sojourn to freedom was long; he walked for thousands of miles naked, barefoot, and ailing from starvation, dehydration, and disease. Many boys perished along the way.

Today, Abraham is an Atlanta-based public health researcher in the Global HIV/AIDS Division, and is co-founder of United Vision for Change, a private foundation dedicated to building schools and health clinics in rural towns of South Sudan. His long-range plans involve returning to East Africa to work in clinics, to organize health workshops, and to empower local health workers to improve community health. In tribute to those who helped him along his own arduous journey, making a difference in the lives of children and refugee camp dwellers is paramount. Abraham is happily married with two children.


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re:loom - weaving a better life

re:loom is a social enterprise that assists homeless, low-income, and refugee adults in metro Atlanta by addressing obstacles to employment. With on-the-job training, re:loom employees become craftsmen and women apprenticed in the art of loom weaving.

Weavehouse is the name of the worksite for re:loom, where volunteers cut up and prepare
donated fabric to be recycled and woven. Weavers use floor looms to transform these fabric pieces into colorful handmade rugs and fashion accessories for sale.

With a stable salary, 100% healthcare coverage, and opportunities to engage in the operation of the Weavehouse, refugee and non-refugee employees gain a financial foundation, leadership skills, and a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

+ Personal stories of the re:loom weavers

Dibya Rupa Khanal, Age 47    Country of Origin: Bhutan   Dibya came to the U.S. from Bhutan seeking a better life for herself and her family. She has been a re:loom weaver for four years, an opportunity offered to her through a local refugee-serving agency. Dibya is a self-taught weaver who learned the crafts of sewing and weaving as a young woman by observing other women in her home community. She enjoys the complex intricacy of patterned weaving, but mostly creates straight-weave products that can be produced at a higher volume in less time. For Hindu festival season or weddings, however, Dibya prides herself as a keeper of Nepali-Bhutanese traditions, creating for her family and friends finely-woven textiles with sacred meaning

Dibya Rupa Khanal, Age 47

Country of Origin: Bhutan

Dibya came to the U.S. from Bhutan seeking a better life for herself and her family. She has been a re:loom weaver for four years, an opportunity offered to her through a local refugee-serving agency. Dibya is a self-taught weaver who learned the crafts of sewing and weaving as a young woman by observing other women in her home community. She enjoys the complex intricacy of patterned weaving, but mostly creates straight-weave products that can be produced at a higher volume in less time. For Hindu festival season or weddings, however, Dibya prides herself as a keeper of Nepali-Bhutanese traditions, creating for her family and friends finely-woven textiles with sacred meaning

Lakh Maya Khanal, Age 31    Country of Origin: Nepal   Born in Jhapa, Nepal, Lakh began sewing traditional Nepali dress clothing and dhaka topi hats in her late teenage years under the tutelage of her sister-in-law, Dibya. Expert in knitting and crocheting, Lakh earned money as a young bride in Bhutan making wool blankets, among other income-generating ventures. Thanks to assistance from a refugee resettlement agency in Clarkston, Lakh has worked at re:loom for more than four years, where she has been able to apply her weaving talents and knowledge in a new context. By successfully adapting a home-country practice of tree-assisted weaving to the use of table and floor looms at re:loom, Lakh has also secured economic self-sufficiency and a sense of personal empowerment as a permanent resident of the U.S.

Lakh Maya Khanal, Age 31

Country of Origin: Nepal

Born in Jhapa, Nepal, Lakh began sewing traditional Nepali dress clothing and dhaka topi hats in her late teenage years under the tutelage of her sister-in-law, Dibya. Expert in knitting and crocheting, Lakh earned money as a young bride in Bhutan making wool blankets, among other income-generating ventures. Thanks to assistance from a refugee resettlement agency in Clarkston, Lakh has worked at re:loom for more than four years, where she has been able to apply her weaving talents and knowledge in a new context. By successfully adapting a home-country
practice of tree-assisted weaving to the use of table and floor looms at re:loom, Lakh has also secured economic self-sufficiency and a sense of personal empowerment as a permanent resident of the U.S.

Damber Pulami, Age 45    Country of Origin: Bhutan   Damber began weaving as a child in Bhutan, learning textile making from his mother and bamboo basketry from his father. He further refined his skills through a UNHCR refugee camp training program. In 2009, Damber traveled with 20 close relatives to the U.S. While his immediate family landed in Georgia, his extended family was sent to New York and South Dakota. Damber scored his first American job as a temporary employee at FedEx. Later, he learned of a chance to weave textiles at re:loom, where he has worked for several years, becoming a master weaver and mentor to other artisans. For side income, Damber weaves and sells hand-made baskets using salvaged tree products

Damber Pulami, Age 45

Country of Origin: Bhutan

Damber began weaving as a child in Bhutan, learning textile making from his mother and bamboo basketry from his father. He further refined his skills through a UNHCR refugee camp training program. In 2009, Damber traveled with 20 close relatives to the U.S. While his immediate family landed in Georgia, his extended family was sent to New York and South Dakota. Damber scored his first American job as a temporary employee at FedEx. Later, he learned of a chance to weave textiles at re:loom, where he has worked for several years, becoming a master weaver and mentor to other artisans. For side income, Damber weaves and sells hand-made baskets using salvaged tree products


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