Meet The Team
We are proud of our growing team and creating a welcoming community for refugee and immigrant women artisans.
Brittany is the sewing coordinator for Refugee Artisan Initiative. With a background in fashion design and passion for the well-being of others, RAI is the perfect fit for her. Brittany's favorite part about what she does are the incredible women and families from across the globe she has had the privilege of working with. She also owns a clothing company called Bartle B. Clothing and hopes to expand to more boutiques in the Northwest.
Heidi is in charge of Marketing, Content, & Social Media for Refugee Artisan Initiative. Her background is in e-Commerce and Digital Marketing, having nearly three years of Amazon experience under her belt after graduating from the University of Virginia. She joined RAI in April 2020 when the Mask Production was taking off, and has since taken on additional responsibilities wherever needed to grow RAI. She hopes to start her own non-profit in the future.
Leela's 25 years of extensive global travel while with an international development organization in Washington DC, brings a unique cultural perspective to connecting with RAI's artisans. She understands the difficult environments they came from, enjoys connecting with them, and guiding them towards independence as entrepreneurs. Leela handles most administrative matters for RAI, while occasionally dipping into new product ideas when she can't resist!
Founder & Executive Director
Ming-Ming is the founder and ED of RAI. As an immigrant from Taiwan, Ming-Ming understands the challenges refugees and immigrants face. She wants to connect these women with the skills they have and opportunities to earn income to provide for their families in America. RAI combines Ming-Min'g's compassion acquired as a pharmacist for 24 years and her love for fashion.
Our artisans are from all over the world. Here are our 12 current artisans and their stories:
Adiba has three children: a 9-year old daughter, and two sons, ages 4 and 2. Her work with RAI has resulted in a shift in her household, where she works to support the family, and her husband takes care of the children. These are two of the things she says she’s most proud of since coming to the US: that she is supporting the family, and that her husband adjusted so well to supporting her work. In Afghanistan, she was a teacher. She is working on getting her driver’s license so she does not have to rely on her husband for transportation.
Diba moved to the US 4 years ago with her 5 children and husband; they actually came from Iran where they lived for 2 years while waiting for entry into the US. While living in Iran, Diba found work in a small family run apparel workshop, where she learned to sew on industrial machines. She was delighted to have found RAI through Refugee Women’s Alliance. She sews throughout the day in between cooking, cleaning and caring for her family. Diba would love to receive more work and more complicated sewing work such as alteration and garment making. She wants to eventually have her own sewing business, but she is working on improving her English first to be able to communicate better with clients.
Hpala is from Myanmar. She immigrated to the US in 2019 with her husband and 3 children. They are Christians which made it difficult for them to have a peaceful life in Myanmar. She loves working for RAI for two major reasons: one is being able to earn a living doing what she’s good at and the other is to be able to work from home. It would be impossible to take care of 3 kids at home now if she had to work outside the home. Phala likes to make candles, a new skill she learned from RAI.
Inzali is from Myanmar. She was referred to us by one of the artisans during the height of mask making last summer. Inzali has had other sewing jobs in the past. She likes being able to work from home while taking care of her family. She is skilled in making different kinds of garments. She is the primary provider for her family while her husband is looking for other work during COVID..
Julie is a single mother of three young children and a refugee from Myanmar. We recruited Julie through our partnership with the Refugee Women's Alliance. She was working full-time at a manufacturing sewing job in Seattle with over a one-hour commute, which was just not feasible for her young family . Julie is very happy to be working with RAI and we're expanding her crafting skills in as many areas as she's willing to learn.
Karima is from Morocco with a grown son. She speaks French and Arabic. Karima does simple sewing projects and wants to build up skills in our program to take on more projects. She is currently taking English classses .
Noi immigrated to the US from Vietnam. One of Noi's friends suggested she should attend an RAI recruiting event at the Children's Home Society of Washington. She was among a group of 30 women at the event and her skill set attracted the attention of Ming-Ming Tung-Edelman. Working from home is a dream come true for Noi; she gets to spend more time with her young children as a result. She received her very first paycheck in the United States after being here for nearly six years! She makes beautiful jewelry, a skill she learned from RAI.
Pri is a refugee from Myanmar who arrived in the US in 2009. Her husband is a pastor. She works full-time in the evening as an associate i configuration at a local technology company. She is also studying to be an accountant. RAI work has allowed Pri to give back to her church community by providing funds for shelter and food during COVID when the community is facing difficult times.
Rahel came to the U.S from Ethiopia with her husband 10 years ago. Rahel is one of the first artisans we hired through our partnerships with MUSES. She has two children. They also have two adopted children in Ethiopia. Rahel loves to sew, embroider and make jewelry. RAI has made her dream come true to support her in creating her own small business, her home sewing shop to support her family. Rahel’s husband Alem is also in RAI’s team helping with transporting materials and products whenever we need him.
Sandar came to the US less than two years ago from Myanmar to join her husband. She is a skilled sewer and was working in a manufacturing job in Thailand while waiting to come to the U.S. Sandar works part-time at an Amazon fulfillment center and part-time sewing from home. She plans to improve her English and be able to take on more projects through RAI.
Tracey is from Vietnam and is from a family of sewers. She has been in America for over four years. She is waiting to have her teen age daughter to join her and her husband. Tracy likes to sew and made her first paycheck in America through RAI. She is motivated to take on more sewing projects and also wants to improve her English.
Yalda found work with RAI through ReWa. She is happy that she can sew and earn money while staying home with her two children (a son who’s 10 and daughter, 7). She’s expecting her third child in Spring 2021. Yalda was a primary school teacher in Afghanistan and misses it. She’s self-taught as a sewer. She likes sewing projects as a hobby and is proud of her growth. Yalda’s dream is to open a shop with her husband, where they can sell traditional Afghani clothes and other items.