We Made This | Artisan Products by Refugee Women

Fashioning Change

Artisan Pan Myiang.jpg

Pan Myiang hesitated for several moments before walking shyly through the door of the We Made This classroom.

That snowy day in 2013 marked the first time Pan had left her house in six months without her husband or one of her five children accompanying her.  Hating the loud sound of the bus, its enormous size, and all the strangers sitting and staring, she refused to ride it alone. Pan was afraid of being taken too far away and being unable to return home.  She feared being unable to communicate with anyone.

Originally from Burma, Pan had resettled in America only six and half months before entering the We Made This classroom. In the classroom, Pan began to meet other women with whom she shared many similarities, despite coming from very different cultures. Her language skills were limited, but through observation, she learned to sew and made her first jewelry pouch. In bewilderment and silence, she worked with her hands.

Four weeks into the training, Pan was no longer afraid to ride the bus.  She arrived on time, ready to work every weekday. Her teacher encouraged her to attend English classes in the morning with the rest of the We Made This students.

By the time the summer sun had melted all of the snow, Pan’s world had changed immensely. She was now teaching other students how to perform basic hand-sewing techniques. Her new language skills and growing confidence enabled her to introduce herself in English to all visitors and customers, as they came through the same doorway she had been fearful of walking through just twelve weeks prior.

We hope that every woman who participates in We Made This can find this scale of transformation, whatever that looks like in her life. 

At the heart of everything, I desire to see the glint in a woman’s eye who thought she was nobody, when she realised she was somebody.
— Inez McCormack