That is how Sarah Brubaker, manager of Ekata Designs, described the Nepali refugees she works with.
Unwelcome in their own country, unwanted and outcast, entire families have gone through the long, arduous immigration process to come to the United States in the hopes of beginning a new life.
I had the amazing opportunity to interview Sarah Brubaker and a Nepali woman she works with, Dil Jogi.
Like most good stories, a great deal of history lays the foundation for it.
According to DiI in the 1880s, Nepal experienced a civil war, during which many of Nepali fled to the neighboring country of Bhutan, where Dil’s family is from and where she was born.
They became farmers. However, in the 1980s, Dil’s family was forced to leave their farm by the Bhutanese government and sent back to Nepal; Dil was only a few months old at the time. Without finances, Dil’s family was put into a refugee camp.
Life there was miserable: no jobs, horribly cramped living conditions, food (namely rice) and supplies rationed out to the families on a biweekly basis. For 20 years, Dil and her family lived like this, as refugees in a Nepali refugee camp.
Then in 2008, Dil and her family began the intense process of applying for immigration. There were interviews, fingerprinting, medical exams and deep investigations that dug into their family’s background.
Dil told me that if anyone fails any one part of the process, they had to be left behind in Nepal and would have not been permitted to come to America with the rest of their family.
“If you sick,” she gave an example, “they give you pills to take, and keep you till you get better. And they won’t let you leave. They keep you.”
Thankfully, this did not happen for Dil’s family, and they all immigrated to America together.
They ended up in Memphis (not by choice, by random selection).
But their new life was not much better than the one they left behind. It was 2009, and the U.S. economy was still recovering from a serious economic situation.
There were next to no jobs available for Americans, let alone newly arrived immigrants. Enter Ekata Designs and Sarah Brubaker.
Sarah Brubaker, a Union University alumna, began what started out as a form of relief ministry but grew into much more.
She brought in women from Memphis to teach the Nepali refugee women to make jewelry to sell as a form of income.
Dil was one of the first women to be taught this trade. The organization grew, a community was formed and the ministry turned into an official business, to which the Nepali women gave the name Ekata Designs: “ekata” being the Nepali word for “unity.”
My time spent with Dil and Sarah at the Memphis venue was amazing.
Watching those two women work together, it was clearly more than just a partnership: it was friendship. Two different people, two different cultures, coming together for a greater purpose: a true example of “ekata.”
Abigail Thigpen is a senior English major.