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How Forai Handicrafts Help Refugee Women In St. Louis Make Friends, Money

(L-R) Jennifer Owens, Ning Lun and Luzmila Buechler joined Thursday's "St. Louis on the Air" to talk about Forai's efforts to help connect St. Louisans with refugees.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio
(L-R) Jennifer Owens, Ning Lun and Luzmila Buechler joined Thursday's St. Louis on the Air to talk about Forai's efforts to help connect St. Louisans with refugees.

For 10 years, an organization based in Maplewood has helped refugees attain the skills they need to earn an income, often without leaving their homes. It all began when Jennifer Owens and her family hosted some refugees from Nepal for Thanksgiving dinner. Her church had sought American families willing to connect with newcomers for the holiday. Owens was happy to help.

Inspired by her conversation with the single mother at her dinner table, Owens started an effort that would eventually become the nonprofit organization Forai, an acronym for Friends Of Refugees And Immigrants. From humble beginnings, it’s helped dozens of refugee women in St. Louis make friends — and money — through sewing and making jewelry. 

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, Owens joined host Sarah Fenske to discuss how the faith-based organization teaches new immigrants to the U.S. the skills they need to start businesses and make connections. 

Also joining the conversation were Luzmila Buechler, an immigrant from Colombia and part of the jewelry team, and Ning Lun, a refugee from Burma and Forai’s assistant sewing coordinator. 

The organization is celebrating its 10-year anniversary during a happy hour and fundraiser Oct. 22. 

Listen to the full discussion: 

Related Event

What: Forai’s Annual Happy Hour and Fundraiser
When: 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019
Where: Schlafly Tap Room (2100 Locust St., St. Louis 63103)

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Tonina Saputo. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

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Lara is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.
Sarah Fenske joined St. Louis Public Radio as host of St. Louis on the Air in July 2019. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.