DuPage County organization seeks to uplift refugee women | Chicago News

Josefina Rengifo (WTTW News)

Each year, thousands of refugees seek asylum in the United States.

An organization in DuPage County is helping refugee women get back on their feet by teaching them how to be creative.

Josefina Rengifo never imagined that she would have to say goodbye to her life in Venezuela.

“I needed to learn a new life. I’m not young and it was tough. I didn’t know the language. When people go to other countries, people don’t want it, but they need it, ”said Rengifo.

Rengifo says she was forced to leave her country four years ago, having to part ways with her businesses and travel to Illinois to live with her daughters.

“When I got here I thought my life was over, why me? Here I listened to (other people’s) story and said, ‘Wow, Josefina shut up. Other people’s lives have been more difficult, ”said Rengifo, an employee of Re: new where she met other women with similar stories.

Re: new is a faith-based, non-profit organization serving refugee women in DuPage County.

“Our mission is to create a safe space for refugee women to thrive, and we do this by offering tailoring and English lessons in the hope that this would lead to employment with us or someone else. ‘another,’ said Kristi Zboncak, executive director. de Re: new.

Rengifo was eager to learn English and was encouraged to learn sewing and became a craftsman.

“The most important thing is that you learn that you can do it, and Re: new takes care of the people here,” Rengifo said. “They pay attention to how you are feeling and what has happened with your family. It gives you dignity.

The organization started as a sewing group and slowly grew into an organization in 2009. The executive director of Re: new says more than a hundred women have participated in the program and have worked for the boutique.

“We find sewing and designing is definitely a healing process for artisans, especially when they don’t know how to sew. And they come here feeling lonely and all of a sudden they have a friend, and they have a machine and they can start creating again, ”Zboncak said. “The healing process and there is something powerful to take (something) discarded and would have been thrown away, but instead we are able to turn it into something beautiful. ”

Farida Gasanova has worked for Re: new for eight years. She was a kindergarten teacher when she fled Georgia at the age of 47.

“I come here without speaking English, and now I know a little bit, a little bit,” Gasanova said.

Today, she is a designer and makes everything from earrings to handbags.

“Whenever I pray that God will help us get clients. I am happy, whenever clients come I pray on my machine, ”Gasanova said.

All of the products they sell at the Glen Ellyn store are made from recycled materials donated by furniture stores and the community.

“A lot of our products are a bit more expensive than you would expect, but that’s because we pay a fair wage and all of their wages go directly into the cost of the product,” Zboncak said.

Even though the trip was not easy, Rengifo says the organization helped her start over.

“I am very grateful because I have a new family here, and I live with my daughters and every day I say thank you to this county for a new opportunity,” said Rengifo.

Note: this story will be updated with a video.

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