DENVER — In a storage unit in Denver, beads and yarn are packed away for now, along with help for refugee women.
“I really welcome the opportunity to once again get together with these resilient, incredible strong women, and just help them thrive through the power of the creative,” said Sharon McCreary, who runs the group A Little Something.
McCreary has worked with refugees for three decades. While teaching English and citizenship classes, she noticed another need among refugee women.
"They felt very isolated," she said. “We thought, what can we do as a self-esteem building exercise to help these women see that they do have value here, and they do have something to contribute?”
That’s how McCreary launched A Little Something almost 15 years ago.
At first, they taught jewelry making, and eventually expanded to other crafts like weaving and knitting. They sell their creations at Rivers and Roads Coffee in Denver.
“The women kept referring other women, and our program grew, and we incorporated, and we eventually were able to rent a studio,” McCreary said. "It really helped build a sense of community for the women, because it was their space. And then the pandemic hit.”
A Little Something lost its studio space in 2020 and moved its supplies into the storage unit. Three years later, they still can’t afford a studio, and they may not be able to keep the storage unit either.
“For a long time, we had savings,” McCreary said. When that ran out, “I thought, well, I have some money, I can cover this until we figure something else out. But I was laid off from my job,” she said.
“We would love to have a home again because that is of paramount importance when you're working with women who have lost their homes, they've lost their country,” she said.
Women like Tukano Salat, who was born in Somalia, grew up in Kenya and moved to Denver with her family in 2004.
Salat and her mother joined A Little Something and learned skills she’s now using in her own business, Tukano’s Treasures.
“Sometimes you need more than guidance, you know, you need resources,” Salat said.
With what she’s learned from A Little Something, she strings together beads to make jewelry worn across a woman’s waist, a tradition in East Africa for special occasions.
“It's not just a jewelry, but it's also a tool to really just embrace the woman,” she said.
Beyond the crafts, Salat said the group helped her and her mother acclimate to American culture.
“Women come to this country, they don't know anything about America,” she said. “A lot of women lose their homes or families. And when you come here so vulnerable... you need guidance.”
McCreary hopes to continue providing that guidance.
From the storage space, “we do still engage with refugee women in the community, but on a fraction of a scale we were before,” McCreary said.
"We would love to have a home again,” she said. “To once again get together with these resilient, incredible strong women, and just help them thrive through the power of the creative.”
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