Earlier this year, Southern Methodist University graduate Teresa Nguyen and her sister, soldier Ty Reed, began importing handicrafts made by female Iraqi artists. Reed had discovered a community of talented women -- many of them widowed during the war and struggling to feed their children -- while on her third tour with the U.S. Army, and she and her sister created the Janan Collection as a way for the women to sell their wares outside Iraq to generate income.
Now, four months after Janan's first exhibitions, Reed and Nguyen have united with seven local nonprofits that serve the approximately 4,000 Iraqi refugees living in the area. (Millions of Iraqis -- by some estimates, 20 percent of the country's population -- remain displaced after the 2003 invasion.)
Reed and Nguyen, along with other local groups, are holding a panel discussion tomorrow at 1 p.m. at the Life in Deep Ellum community arts center. Their goal is to educate people about the challenges local Iraqi refugees face -- including poverty, homelessness and balancing work and childcare while away from their extended families -- and to explore new avenues for support.
Panelists will include representatives from Mosaic Family Services, the Iraqi American Association of North Texas, the Texas Muslim Women's Foundation and an Arabic Studies professor from the University of North Texas. There will be Arabic translation, as well as Iraqi art on display.
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"The common denominator is all of these groups help Iraqi women, so how can we partner to help and raise awareness?" Nguyen tells Unfair Park. "What we're doing is a start -- an open discussion. I hope it will create more positive action. There are so many needs and not enough support."