Giveaway has ended and the winner has been notified.
After yesterday’s post about the theology of place, I couldn’t wait to share this powerful story from south Texas with you. It’s about a brave and beautiful artisan, Pwe Loe, a couple of Austin girlfriends, and a community of Burmese refugees on a mission. I’ve had the privilege of getting to know Jessica Goudreau – who wrote this post – a bit better through the Internet, and she’s the real deal. Plus: GIVEAWAY!
The first time we met a group of Burmese refugees, my friend Caren and I were visiting a fall festival our church puts on in another neighborhood. There were tiny shoeless children, breastfeeding mothers, widowed grandmothers, harried two-job-working fathers. We couldn’t have walked away if we tried. When we started Hill Country Hill Tribers the following summer, we knew our lives were forever changed by these new friends in a downtrodden apartment complex in Austin.
Hill Country Hill Tribers
Our friends fled persecution in Burma and hopeless futures in refugee camps; living in this new country is another high-stakes game of survival. We have worked as hard as we could in the last five years to help the women earn supplemental income for their families; they are mostly stay-at-home mothers or widows who just want to do something. They have skills that they’ve been taught through generations, weaving and crocheting and sewing, and they can’t leave babies or can’t speak English well enough to get out and get a job. Some months their husbands or family members have a lot of work; other months their jobs get cut back, and then the electricity is turned off or the rent is overdue or the fridge is frighteningly empty.
Over the years of friendship with these women, we’ve seen their pluck and their drive. We’ve seen so much of their lives while we’ve eaten meals, held babies, talked about weaving and colors and thread and backstrap looms. We’ve seen the pride it gives a woman to bring a paycheck home to her family. We’ve seen how learning English eases her panic in a strange and bewildering world. We’ve seen how gathering weekly with friends from around the city brings comfort and friendship and good, rich laughter. We’ve seen how an artist who is praised for her craftsmanship gains confidence and peace.
We would do anything to help these women.
All summer the women of Hill Country Hill Tribers have been hand-crafting an inventory of gorgeous new jewelry and scarves. They will go on sale on our website starting August 28.
But first, we want to introduce you to some of our friends. We want you to see their faces and know their stories. We want you to fall in love with the artists who have captured our hearts. We want you to help us help them.
This is Pwe Loe.
She is as bubbly and vivacious as she looks in this picture. Her laughter is irrepressible. We were there when she made her first joke in English: in class, we were learning adjectives, and she said, “I am TALL.” Since she’s less than five feet, it was hilarious, but she was so proud of herself and so tickled by her own joke, we laughed till tears came to our eyes.
Pwe Loe is in love with her husband. They have five children together. He works in Dallas and comes home as often as he can on the weekends; he stays in a room with several other migrant workers, refugees and other men working on whatever job they can to support their families. When they talk on the phone every night, Pwe Loe giggles like a teenage girl. The separation is hard on them all.
Beneath Pwe Loe’s effervescent smile is steel. She has endured extreme, gut-wrenching hardship. She and her family fled multiple times from the Burmese junta who persecuted them for being a different ethnicity. Once in her village in Burma, she heard the all-too-familiar cry: “The soldiers are coming.” She ran as fast as she could, hiding well enough that the soldiers did not find her. From her hiding place, she witnessed what twelve of the soldiers did to one of the women who lived near her.
She shares her horrifying stories with the passion of someone who wants to bring about change. The atrocity and endurance and war she has lived through make her laughter a miracle.
Pwe Loe has been weaving since her mother first taught her as a little girl. It is a timeless art; the word for her hill tribe, Karen, means “weaver.” The craft literally defines her people. Pwe Loe weaves the scarves that she makes for Hill Country Hill Tribers line by line, as her mother taught her. She has an artist’s eye—she comes up with new designs that make each scarf uniquely her own.
This goldenrod scarf is Pwe Loe’s grit and giggles, woven together in an intricate pattern that keeps her family rooted in the past and gives them hope in the face of an uncertain future.
Here’s how you can tell Pwe Loe’s story and get a chance to win her hand-woven scarf:
- Follow Hill Country Hill Tribers (@hilltribers) on Twitter
- Like Hill Country Hill Tribers on Facebook
- Join our Facebook Flashmob and change your profile picture for one day on August 28 to help build awareness of our work
- Tweet/share/email/call your sister about this giveaway (make sure to mention @sarahbessey, who is so graciously sharing her corner of the internet with us)
Leave a new comment on this blog post with each item above to get the extra entries. The giveaway ends Monday, August 27 at 5:oo p.m. PST. If you don’t win, watch our website: August 28 at 8:00 am CST, the new products will go live and you’ll be able to buy the scarves and jewelry made by Pwe Loe and her friends.
Tomorrow, D.L. Mayfield will be hosting a next blog giveaway. Follow us over there to read more about the Hill Triber jewelry-makers and the way the team is working together to make one gorgeous necklace.