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Changing Lives

Mother’s Day cards give local refugees a chance to succeed.

By Liza Long

This Mother’s Day, one Eagle-based non-profit social enterprise will make a real difference in the lives of local refugees. Full Circle Exchange hired more than 60 refugees who live in the Boise area to produce a special line of hand-embellished Mother’s Day greeting cards for Walmart stores nationwide. The proceeds of these card sales support the organization’s goal of promoting women’s self-sufficiency and breaking the cycles of poverty around the world.

For many of the Boise refugee women, this project has been their first opportunity to work in the United States.  “Working for Full Circle Exchange and making Mother’s Day cards has given me healing and hope and a way to provide for my family. This opportunity came at exactly the right moment,” said Nidaa Azeez from Iraq who arrived in Boise this past summer.

The refugees join an existing network of women’s cooperatives and women-owned businesses across the globe who craft a line of home décor, accessories, gifts and food items sold through Full Circle Exchange at Walmart, Macy’s and other retail outlets.   “This is an exciting chance for us to put our model of transforming the lives of women and families to work right here in Idaho –by providing fresh opportunities to our vibrant refugee community,” said Mark Priddy, co-founder and CEO of Full Circle Exchange. “We’re benefitting from truly motivated and dedicated employees, while also providing a new avenue for this inspiring group of people to share their unique experiences and integrate into their new home.”

Idaho’s First Lady Lori Otter says that the work Full Circle is doing makes a real difference in Idaho women’s lives.  “Full Circle Exchange is helping to empower women at risk in Idaho and around the world by creating sustainable economic opportunities,” Otter said. “Embracing the freedom they find in America can be a lot more meaningful for refugees if they also have the means to make their way in the world. Full Circle Exchange offers that chance.”

Boise’s large refugee community includes members from Burma, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nepal, Ethiopia, Iraq and Afghanistan. The Full Circle Exchange pilot program with these local refugees was created to provide immediate income, job readiness, and interpersonal skills needed to overcome barriers to employment. Full Circle Exchange is one of a list of Idaho companies who are tapping this diverse and talented employment pool.   “We’re thrilled to be producing 200,000 cards right here in Boise, along with 250,000 cards we are producing with women’s groups in some of the most marginalized countries around the world,” said Priddy.  “Each card is designed by Idaho artist and co-founder of Brave Girls Melody Ross and hand-signed by the women who make them, resulting in a really personal and touching gift for the Mother’s Day holiday – a gift that also touches the lives of those most in need of dignified work and economic support.”

Tara Wolfson, Regional Employment Coordinator with the Idaho Office for Refugees, was grateful for the opportunity to staff the Full Circle Exchange project and was able to meet their needs in just ten days. “In our work here, we offer free staffing services to employers, matching their needs with a wide variety of job candidates, some of whom hold doctorates, while others have never had the benefit of a formal education,” she said. “We have been gratified to partner with Full Circle Exchange on a project that has not only provided an impressive number of jobs, but also is forging a really exciting link between refugee programs in the U.S. and social entrepreneurship.”

Full Circle Exchange is a non-profit social enterprise brand dedicated to empowering women and communities through design partnerships and sustainable economic opportunities.   The brand focuses on job creation and access to training, education and global markets to help lift people out of poverty.  The Mother’s Day card project marks their first foray into working directly with the local refugee workforce. Local stakeholders including the Van Auker Company graciously donated facilities for the project to be completed. “As a company, we are delighted to partner with Full Circle Exchange in their effort to create long-term viable opportunities for refugees here in Idaho,” said Ron Van Auker.

The refugee women all expressed their gratitude as well. It’s that kind of partnership and gratitude that motivates Mark Priddy and Tara Wolfson to work with these extraordinary women. This Mother’s Day, celebrate your mother by celebrating all women and providing opportunities for hope.

Pull Quote:  “Working for Full Circle and making Mother’s Day cards has given me healing and hope and a way to provide for my family.”—Nidaa Azeez

For More Information:

For more information on Full Circle Exchange’s mission and Idaho-based refugees, please visit www.fullcircleexchange.com and www.idahorefugees.org

Full Circle Exchange’s gift line at Walmart can be viewed here: http://www.walmart.com/search/search-ng.do?_refineresult=true&ic=32_0&pref_store=2508&search_constraint=0&search_query=full+circle+exchange&ss=false&tab_value=all&cat_id=1085632_1094926