This is the sixth in a series of articles as part of the WorldCraftssm Set1Free campaign. This campaign highlights WorldCrafts artisan groups working to end sexual exploitation and human trafficking among the world’s poor.
Juli was born in Chin State, Burma (Myanmar), a region where Christians are severely persecuted for their faith. To escape this oppressive situation, many Burmese families turn to human traffickers and/or smugglers* to get relatives out of the country, especially young adults who they hope will find a better life elsewhere.
Juli’s family used all of their life savings to pay smugglers to get Juli out of Chin State. Leaving her family behind at only 17, she began her journey from Burma to the nearby country of Malaysia. Due to the secretive nature of the business, many human traffickers and smugglers resort to violent acts of torture in order to demonstrate their authority over their passengers. Female travelers live in constant fear of being raped.
Juli finally made it to Malaysia and spent ten years there as a refugee. She married and had a little girl before the family finally immigrated to the United States.
Life here is often challenging for recent immigrants, especially refugees, and it has been so for Juli’s family. But now she and her husband, who is a lay pastor working with Asian immigrants in Atlanta, are thankful they’ve found encouragement and healing in the loving community of Refugee Beads. Juli learns jewelry making and business skills through their training program, and this provides needed income to the family.
Immigrants to the United States often find a new and even threatening set of challenges when they arrive. Kids are drawn into crime, parents are treated with disdain and overworked in menial labor jobs, and even basic tasks seem like impossible puzzles, says Ruth Ann North, coordinator of the Refugee Beads ministry.
Within many refugee communities there is often a small set of Christian pastors called to reach and disciple their own people groups. These pastors try to balance their unpaid ministry work with difficult jobs, poverty, and immense cultural challenges, North says. Refugee Beads exists to inject hope, a sense of community, and financial support into the lives of these refugee families in the Atlanta area.
*Smugglers are paid to illegally take willing people across borders. Traffickers exploit their victims in various ways (prostitution; bonded labor) by force, fraud, or coercion. They may also transport people across borders, though not necessarily so.
Your purchase of these handmade items from WorldCrafts allows Refugee Beads to expand its work among recent immigrants to Atlanta, Georgia. As refugees, most of them are previous victims of violence, persecution, or exploitation. As WorldCrafts orders additional products from Refugee Beads, this artisan group can reach out to the families of more immigrant pastors.
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