Before coming to the United States, refugees have often experienced traumatic, life-threatening events. War, violence, or significant persecution has caused them to leave everything they know and love. For women, the adjustment to a new country can be especially difficult.
To help with that transition Interfaith Ministries created the Women’s Empowerment Group (WEG) Program, designed to prevent isolation, build community, and equip women with the information or skills they need to thrive in their new lives.
The primary goal of our Women’s Empowerment Group is to prevent isolation by getting women and children out of their homes and into their new community.
Meetings are held weekly in 10-week cycles, with breaks during school holidays. Each meeting includes a healthy lunch and regularly features a speaker to address topics based on the needs and interests of women in the group. Past presentations have included:
- Supporting Your Child’s Education (presented by the School Impact Program—Catholic Charities)
- Diabetes (presented by the American Diabetes Association)
- Your Local Libraries (presented by Houston Libraries)
- Domestic Abuse and Where to Find Help (presented by DAYA)
- Cottage Food Industry Laws in Texas (presented by Brigitte Zabak, entrepreneur and owner of Yalla Sweets)
- Music and Personal Stories (presented by Arabic-speaking violinist Jenna Barghouti and her colleague, Lindsey Baggett; Houston Symphony)
- Technology Use and Abuse Among Youth (presented by Dr. Crystall Collier, Former Director of the Behavioral Health Institute & The Choices Prevention Program at The Council on Recovery)
- Breast Cancer Awareness (presented by Planned Parenthood)
- Know Your Rights (presented by the ACLU)
- Crisis Intervention (presented by Alliance for Compassion and Tolerance)
- What is the 2020 Census and why you should participate (presented by US Census Bureau)
A dedicated team of volunteers cares for preschool children during the meetings, with fun, age-appropriate activities and crafts related to the American calendar. Meetings are currently translated into Arabic. An Afghan focused group is beginning in Fall 2019.
For refugee women, the group is a safe, welcoming place to share knowledge and develop lasting friendships.
A key part of the Women’s Empowerment Group is to encourage women to explore opportunities and expand their potential, as well as boost self-esteem. Programs are built around the needs and interests of women attending in the group, and have included:
- Swim Lessons (YMCA)
- Children’s Swim Lessons (YMCA)
- Website development for craft sales
- Car maintenance (Six 13 Shop)
- Learning to drive (Alliance)
- Computer Literacy (YMCA International)
- Food Handlers Certificates
- Texas Line Dancing
- Sewing lessons (by hand and machine)
- Syrian Cooking Classes
- Middle Eastern Bake Sales
- Women’s Empowerment Group Cookbook
- Handmade Jewelry Sales
- Access to children’s summer camps (St. John’s Summer Express Program)
The Women’s Empowerment Group would not be possible without an incredible team of volunteers. Volunteers provide authentic, natural support and are needed for a myriad of roles, including:
- Meeting support:
- Transport women and children to meetings
- Pick up and deliver coffee or lunch
- Plan children’s crafts or educational activities
- Play with children and develop vocabulary
- Research speakers or programs
- Practice conversational English
- Translate in Arabic, Pashtu, or Dari
- Mentor women in business skills
- Practice driving and navigation
- Provide support during bake sales (Saturdays)
- Provide support during cooking classes (evenings)
- Assist with grocery shopping for cooking classes
- Photograph recipes for a cookbook
- Mentor families
- Tutor children
- Advocate for or support women in resolving issues they may be facing
- Advocate for children with special needs
- Support moms during personal or family illness/hospitalization
By connecting with and supporting our Women’s Empowerment Group with simple acts of kindness and service, you can have a life-changing impact for generations to come. Your gift of time and encouragement will help build a bridge to a new beginning—and leave a lasting impression on your life as well.
Around 40 women and their children attend this group. The weekly meetings are busy and vibrant, giving the women a great opportunity to mix with volunteers as well as each other. Regular surveys and a steering committee of 7 refugee women ensure the group remains relevant to those it serves. Participants are refugees from Syria or Iraq, and all presentations are translated into Arabic. Recent focuses have been on learning to drive, learning to swim and computer literacy.
Often participants in this group can’t read or write, as only 30% of women in Afghanistan are fully literate (World Bank 2018). This makes information sharing a vital function of our Afghan Empowerment group, as well as connecting the women and children to opportunities they can’t research themselves. Around 16 women and their children attend this group each week. Basic ESP (English for Specific Purposes) is also taught, and volunteers pair up with more advanced English speakers to help them practice conversation. The group is in Dari, and all presentations are translated.
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Syrian refugee shares kitchen talent with a dash of love for home
Thank you to Islamic Relief USA for their support of Interfaith Ministries programs, including Refugee Services – Women’s Empowerment Group.
For more information
For more information about the Women’s Empowerment Group please contact
Chloe Krane, Women’s Empowerment Liaison, at email@example.com or (713) 533-3116.