Friends, I am so excited to tell you about Anwar! She is a huge part of Weighting Comforts.
April 2nd marks the three-year anniversary of my first meeting Anwar, and Weighting Comforts becoming more than just a side gig from my kitchen table.
By April 2015, I had been making blankets from my kitchen table for about five months. My therapy practice was growing, so I didn’t have as much time for sewing. But we kept getting more and more orders. My friend and neighbor, Cammy, had told me about a woman in her church who taught refugees to sew in order to help them create income for their families. Cammy connected me to Rita at Sew For Hope, and Rita connected me with Anwar.
At first, I was nervous to work with Anwar. She wears a hijab (head covering) because she is Muslim. I’d never had a Muslim friend before. Honestly, I was afraid, since my main association with Muslim people was 9/11.
I met Anwar and another Sew For Hope graduate one Friday to teach them how to make weighted blankets. Little by little, we began talking about our lives. By the end of the day we all had out our phones, showing each other pictures of our children and our husbands. And so began the expansion of Weighting Comforts. For the next two years, we met weekly in the ThriftSmart parking lot to exchange raw goods for completed blankets and paychecks.
Along the journey, Anwar has been an incredible encouragement to me.
Juggling two jobs, I was extra forgetful and scattered. I often ran late to our meet-ups, and every week I had to ask Anwar how to spell her last name. And yet, she saw good in me.
One day I was a hot mess picking up blankets in my “therapist clothes” on the way into my therapy office. Anwar said to me, “I told my husband, ‘this woman, she do everything right.’”
“Everything right?” I thought. “What?! She sees how I run around! She knows I show up late. I am constantly scurrying.” But Anwar believed the best about me, and told me so!
She said, “You know, you could rent a place and we could all sew together there.”
It stopped me in my tracks. I had been thinking about renting space for Weighting Comforts. Just a few weeks earlier I said to myself, “Nothing will happen if I don’t say these things out loud. If I want to rent a space, I have to take action.” Then suddenly, Anwar was saying out loud to me what I had been saying to myself.
I am a strong Christian woman. I am a praying woman. I love Jesus, and He has lead me on this journey. And here I was standing in a parking lot with a Muslim woman confirming what I believed God was leading me to do. I shared with her that I had been thinking the same thing, and her words gave me more confidence to move forward.
I responded, “Well, pray, Anwar.”
She nodded, “I pray, Miss Donna”.
Soon after, we moved into our current factory space.
Anwar is brilliant. She has a Masters Degree in physics and mathematics from Iraq. I cannot even tell you what a relief it has been to work with her because she is an excellent problem solver. Her kids say to her, “Mom, put it in your computer [her brain] - you will figure it out!”
Anwar has opened my eyes to what life in the U.S. is like for refugees. She says, “Everyone need English, and THEN, everyone need work.”
At one point I considered outsourcing the manufacturing of our blankets. Anwar came to me genuinely concerned. She said, “Miss Donna, I have ten women here that need work. One lady call me every day to ask me for work. She is a widow from Syria with four kids. She does not want to be on food stamps. She wants to work.”
I cannot adequately express to you what Anwar means to me. She is like a sister. Last Thanksgiving, her family honored our family by joining us for dinner. We had such a good time talking, laughing and eating with her husband and sons.
Currently, she is our Sewing Floor Manager, hiring all of our sewers, and training them to do excellent work. She is a constant source of encouragement and strength.
Just this weekend she came to visit my mom in the hospital after surgery. THAT is the kind of friend she is!
So, reader, I encourage you to be inspired by this true story.
Is there someone different from you that you would like to get to know?
Don’t be afraid. Lean in! Invite them to coffee. Start a conversation. You never know what will come!
Donna Durham, MMFT
President and Founder