Dallas Company Empowers Refugee Women Through Work

Refugee women from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and more are learning work skills and leadership at GAIA, a Dallas fashion company.

The flight path to Dallas Love Field goes right over GAIA. It's fitting since the women who work there all came here from somewhere else.

"I think we put a welcome face to America that they might not see elsewhere," said GAIA founder Paula Minnis. "I feel like they're people just like us. It could be us."

Minnis started GAIA after mentoring a refugee woman and seeing a need to empower women seeking a new life.

Bothina Matar and her mother-in-law, Huda, are Syrian refugees.

"We lived a good life not thinking anything is going to happen," Matar said, recalling the bombings in her native country. "Like, we used to hear the planes before they airstrike the people. It's hard."

Matar taught English in Syria. Now she sews purses for GAIA.

"I wasn't, like, a real sewer," she said about her life back home. "And now I think I'm good," Matar said, giggling.

"They want to have a purpose. They want to integrate and they want to contribute," Minnis said of her employees. "They've been a gift."

With President Donald Trump indicating he will put a halt on refugees entering the country, Matar is worried.

"I mean, I'm confused actually," Matar said, explaining that she left her own country to get away from terrorism. "If they were, like, good countries, they're (refugees) not going to leave their country and come (here). What's the point?"

The point of GAIA is to empower refugee women to succeed in their new lives.

"I think if we all practice some empathy and put ourselves in that same position," Minnis said. "I think we would want to be welcomed with open arms as well."

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