Welcome Project gives immigrants, refugees space to sell art, handmade goods

Empowering those who have fled to America in search of a better life--that's part of what's happening in Camp Washington. There is a new space for refugees and immigrants called The Welcome Center. (WKRC)

CAMP WASHINGTON (WKRC) – Empowering those who have fled to America in search of a better life is the mission of Sheryl Rajbhandari.

She runs a non-profit called Heartfelt Tidbits and has recently partnered with another local organization, Wave Pool, to create a space for refugees and immigrants to make and sell a variety of goods in the city.

It’s called the Welcome Project. The project has provided two store fronts on Colerain Avenue in Camp Washington. One is a boutique that’s now open, and the second is a café that should open in the coming months.

The space gives the city’s newest neighbors a chance for a successful life in America.

"That's what it's all about, empowering these folks who feel like they've left everything behind, including their identity, and helping them restore it here in their new home,” said Rajbhandari.

Back in July, the two organizations began working together creating art workshops and sewing items like handbags, purses and scarves, to name a few. The word spread and the items were in demand.

"We said how cool would it be if we opened up a little store and allowed the women to sell their items and then mentor them on what it means to run a business and how to run a business successfully in the US,” said Rajbhandari.

Lourdes Santos is one of the women finding success thanks to the help of Rajbhandari. Santos is now in a lead position at the Welcome Boutique.

"It's big because you meet a lot of people and you learn about a lot of things,” said Santos.

Santos is originally from Guatemala and has lived in Cincinnati for three years after being granted asylum.

Next door, a Syrian family will soon operate the Welcome Café and offer catering services.

"Hopefully if she's successful she spawns off another restaurant in this area of her own and that becomes a site for another new family that has an interest in a being a restaurant owner,” said Rajbhandari.

The work Rajbhandari does with Heartfelt Tidbits is extensive, providing support and services for refugees and immigrants through classes, workshops, job training and finding housing.

Now with The Welcome Project, all that work is being noticed. Recently, Rajbhandari and her daughter were featured on a mural down the street from the Welcome Center. It’s a mural that’s part of nationwide series called 'Girl Noticed.' Artist Lori Pratico travels the country creating paintings that recognize women doing great things in their communities.

Click here to learn more about The Welcome Project.


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