This post was not sponsored but The Orenda Tribe did sponsor an Instagram post and provide complimentary t-shirts.
Charlottesville, due to its proximity to Washington DC and its well established network of social services, is home to lots of refugees.
Some of them are my friends.
The thrift shop where I work accepts vouchers for clothing and household goods distributed by local agencies. One agency in particular works with a large population of refugees from Afghanistan. Two women have frequented the shop for the last two years and it’s been a delight to get to know them, to watch their children grow, and to help them get the things they need. One is taking English classes at the community college. The other had a baby on Thanksgiving day, which everyone finds funny but also appropriate for the tiny little blessing they named Ariane, which can either refer to the region they came from or mean Holy.
I sometimes think that the people who don’t want refugees here have never met someone who had to leave everything behind for their own survival. One of the women from the shop just introduced her youngest son to Santa Claus in December. I asked her if Santa was a thing in Afghanistan and she said that she grew up in wartime and never celebrated any holidays. It may sound trite, but that statement clarified for me how bad things must have been. Even your small celebrations are stripped from you.
I mention all of this to say that, though the refugee crisis feels insurmountable (it’s the number one thing I pray about), it is not impossible to touch a life in a small way. My friendships with the women who come into the shop have been meaningful to me because we’ve been open with one another and we’ve refused to let cultural and language barriers keep us from relationship. This, in so many ways, is how the world changes for the better.
But even if you don’t live close to refugee communities, you can help in small ways.
The Orenda Tribe found one solution…
The Orenda Tribe sets up art workshops in underprivileged communities and refugee camps to encourage children to tell their stories through images. Children and mentors create murals on the buildings and make art to be screenprinted on t-shirts The Orenda Tribe sells to put money back into these efforts.
To date, The Orenda Tribe has helped set up and beautify 17 art centers at refugee camps and schools as well as assist with art therapy sessions. You can see the location list here. In addition, The Orenda Tribe partners with Save the Children – Jordan, Art Therapy International Centre, Entrepreneurs for Social Change, Color the Camps, and SOS Children’s Villages – Jordan.
About the T-Shirts
Charlie and I are wearing items from The Orenda Tribe’s collection of organic, screen-printed tees.
I really love the lightheartedness of kids’ art and this Mama Bee t-shirt is perfect for me since my nickname growing up was Leah Bee. A note on sizing: The Orenda Tribe’s clothing runs small. I’m wearing a Medium but could have easily sized up to a Large for a slightly roomier fit.
Charlie’s Buzzy Bee t-shirt is a 4T, but he usually wears a 3T. (This is my friend Peter’s son, in case you were wondering). I think he liked the shirt but it’s hard to tell with 2 1/2 year olds!
You can learn more about The Orenda Tribe’s mission here.