FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
REFUGEE WOMEN LAUNCH BUSINESS IN RURAL CANADA
How One Local Community is Empowering Two Women from Eastern Congo to Succeed
Alberta, Canada OCTOBER 19, 2018 -- When Argentine and Mapendo arrived at Edmonton International Airport, in Alberta, Canada, less than 1 year ago, they looked exhausted and bewildered. They didn’t speak English or French, and because of their physical disabilities and the effects of poverty, they lacked even an elementary school education. Now, less than one year later, with the help of Canada’s unique private refugee sponsorship model and a large community of support, they are beating the odds. They have incorporated their own business, launched an online store, and are harnessing the power of the internet to share their journey.
“What surprised me about life in Canada? The way everyone welcomed us,” Argentine said recently. “We look so different. But people welcomed us like family anyway.”
There were bumps in the road. Like the time that cooking fumes set off a fire alarm in the home where they were staying. “It sounded like the war” Mapendo said. She raced into the cold January night, with no shoes on. The door locked behind her and she found herself walking on snow with bare feet.”
But when asked if she misses Congo Mapendo replies, “I miss my mother. But it is hard to miss a place where I laid awake every night in fear. We are very happy here. We can sleep at night.”
In Congo, both Mapendo and Argentine survived by sewing. Now, in Canada, they continue to sew.
They have traded in their hand-crank sewing machines for electric machines provided by the refugee sponsorship group that supports them. With the input of local customers they have developed a line of reversible tote bags that contrasts black canvas cloth with vibrant African prints. Along with a longtime friend and partner, they incorporated their business in Canada in August and launched online sales in Canada.
“We are super excited to have our bags available here. Because it really isn’t just a bag. It is a way to bring more people into this story, “ their partner, Dawn, says. “And the story isn’t just about what Argentine and Mapendo have overcome. It is also about a whole community, in fact a whole country, that is making their success possible.”
Their website, www.shonacongo.com, features a photo blog, links to live videos, and of course an online shop selling their unforgettable bags. “We need to get the word out in Canada. This is a success story, and we are all a part of it,” Dawn says.