The founder of Vickery Trading Company in Dallas, Texas is currently working to get family members of its workers out of Afghanistan. The nonprofit employs refugee women in order to teach them sewing and other skills that can help them with future success.
This company sells hand-sewn clothing, and the money is used to directly support the refugee women that work for them. Vickery Trading Co. describes a refugee on their website as “a person forced to leave their country to escape war or persecution, and due to such dangers, cannot return to their country of origin.”
One former worker took a trip to Afghanistan with her children to visit family there, and the trading company worried about her getting back.
“She stayed to have a little more time with family, thinking, like the rest of the world, that they have a little more time before Kabul fell,” founder and executive director Stephanie Giddens told NBC. “All of a sudden everything just shut down and the U.S. was only allowed in the confines of the airport.”
Giddens began to work on getting the employee and her children out, contacting anyone who might be able to help. She worked to get them back before the August 31 deadline for U.S. citizens to return to the country.
In her interview with NBC, Giddens said, “Going through the process of communicating with her on the ground, ‘OK, go to this gate, now that’s compromised, now go to this gate. It was like living through the middle of this crazy movie that we’re living every day trying to get them out, and everything we tried and every path we tried wasn’t working.”
While the family was able to leave Afghanistan, Giddens and other nonprofit employees are continuing to try and help others get back to the U.S. “I had this confidence that the U.S. goes in and gets their people,” she said. “But there were many times where I wasn’t sure that she was actually going to be able to get out.”
According to Giddens, there are around 250 family members of both current and former apprentices that they are currently working to get out of Afghanistan: “It’s personal to me but it’s beyond that,” Giddens explained in the interview. “We owe this to the people of Afghanistan who have helped us.”
Vickery Trading Co. is able to help the refugees they employ assimilate to life in the U.S. while teaching them valuable skills that will stay with them even after the apprenticeship.
“Sewing is what I call a ‘show me’ skill,” Giddens said. “It doesn’t require language in the beginning, so we can communicate without language and it allows them to have early success and earn money before they can even speak the language.”
Women are paid to go through the 21-month program and then placed in a job afterward to continue supporting themselves or family members.