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Program helping refugees understand finances, make money



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SALT LAKE CITY -- Imagine moving to a new country without knowing anything about the banking, business or money systems there. That's the reality for thousands of refugees who arrive every year in Utah.

Now a new program is helping those refugees find their financial footing by using skills they already have.

Behind every handmade card, scarf and necklace created by members of the Global Artisans program is a story of a refugee who came to Utah looking for a new life.

"I came to Nepal from Bhutan and stayed as a refugee for 17 years," says Dahn Pheyel.

But a new life has new challenges, like learning a new finance system.

"In Nepal, there were not bank account systems," Pheyel says.

That puts the refugees, who know how to make beautiful crafts honoring their homelands, in a tough spot.

"They don't understand the process of becoming a business owner, and it becomes more complicated for those who don't speak English," says Ze Min Xiao, refugee services liaison.

That's where the Global Artisans program comes in. The three-stage series teaches everything from how to cash a check to how to develop a business plan.

At first, the program loans refugees the money for supplies. Eventually, they're purchasing their own and taking home 100 percent of the sale price.

Of the 80 people in the program, 95 percent are women. Hanaa Sadeq came from Iraq two years ago.

In this economy Sadeq's husband has struggled to find a job.The money she brings home from her handmade bags means a lot.

"I have two daughters. They need some money; and my husband, I can give him some money and save some," Sadeq says.

Sadeq always has had the sewing skills, it's the selling skills she's learning that make the difference.

The program is catching a lot of attention; it currently has a wait list of 100 refugees.

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E-mail: sdallof@ksl.com

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Sarah Dallof

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