King5 News - Seattle organization helps refugees, immigrants overcome barriers to employment

By: Chris Cashman

See in: King5 News

The Refugee Artisan Initiative in Lake City assists immigrants with overcoming the language barrier, transportation and other cultural barriers to employment.


SEATTLE — May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage (AAPI) month. It's a month that celebrates the many contributions of AAPI women in America.  

An organization in Seattle's Lake City neighborhood is empowering refugee and immigrant women by combatting the recent acts of violence through inclusion and opportunity. 

Ming-Ming Tung-Edelman is a Taiwanese immigrant herself and founded Refugee Artisan Initiative in 2016 to provide unique training to other women coming to America.

“We stand with immigrant women in America," said Ming-Ming. "We stand with our AAPI community. We stand against racism and hatred, and we stand for the eventual freedom in which all women in America are accepted, respected and empowered."

The organization assists with overcoming the language barrier, transportation and other cultural barriers to employment.

Refugee Artisan Initiative teaches skills like sewing so the women can gain full-time employment and even pursue their own business ventures. The organization recently launched a fundraiser aimed at $50,000 to enroll 20 more women into the training program.

Ming-Ming said the women she has worked with over the past few years have come from countries like Vietnam, Ethiopia, Miramar, Morocco and even Afghanistan

Many refugees are accustomed to making their own clothes so the organization helps them refine their skills and assist with job searches and even business licensing.

Hats, gloves, bags and even pet beds are just a few of the items the women at the Refugee Artisan Initiative have been making from mostly "up-cycled" materials. 

Ming-Ming said sewing became an even more important skill under the pandemic when her team was able to quickly pivot and start making masks and even medical scrubs for hospital workers. They are now in a partnership with Swedish Hospital and are making new scrubs for frontline workers.  

Ming-Ming said the growth and impact of the Refugee Artisan Initiative has also increased her responsibility to the immigrant community. The organization is focused on bringing more women into the organization so they can become trained artisans and earn income with dignity.

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