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Refugee Artisan Initiative has a goal of making 1,500 hats, scarves, mittens for unhoused teens

The nonprofit provides training and employment to immigrant women to help ensure a prosperous and inclusive transition to the United States.

SEATTLE — The Refugee Artisan Initiative (RAI) has a goal of raising $45,000 by giving Tuesday in order to provide hats and scarves to local unhoused teens. 

RAI is a Seattle-based nonprofit that has been providing training and employment to immigrant women since 2017. Founder Ming-Ming Tung-Edelman said her vision was to create an organization that would provide an inclusive and prosperous transition to the United States through skill training and micro-business development. 

More than 35 women are working with RAI on artisan skills training in zero waste and small batch manufacturing. 

RAI's Friendship Through Fleece initiative is entering its third and most ambitious year. Last year through the initiative RAI artisans donated 1,000 hats and scarves to those in need. This year, the women are hoping to gather enough funds and materials to donate 1,500 hats, scarves and mittens to local teens in need. 

"All of these women are mothers and they want to also provide for local unhoused teens," said Director of Development at RAI Carmen Brenner. 

The nonprofit is more than halfway to their $45,000 goal. They also accept fleece donations. 

"Almost all of our materials are made of upcycled fabrics," said Brenner.

RAI believes the Friendship Through Fleece campaign is the perfect blend of community support and empowerment for artisans. Tung-Edelman said the need for donations has only grown, but so has her roster of talented artisans.

"We get to pay these women a living wage so they can provide for their families, and they get to give back by providing warm fleece clothing for people in need," Tung-Edelman said. 

RAI has a reputation for utilizing artisans' skills to help fill a need. During the pandemic, the RAI put their sewing machines to use making face masks and even medical scrubs for first responders. 

To support the Friendship Through Fleece campaign and to learn more about Refugee Artisan Initiative visit their website or visit the makers' space at 12337 Lake City Way NE Seattle.


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