Talented designer Wesal Muhi, who goes by Emmy, has been working and living in Bowling Green for four years ever since the International Center helped her move from Iraq.
However, her experience reaches back much further than four years. Muhi worked as a seamstress in Iraq for 30 years before moving to America. She says her family, specifically her mother and grandmother, were instrumental in her training. They showed her how to measure with only her hands. “I know what size you are just by looking at you,” she said.
I’m a designer,” Muhi said. Muhi crafts custom dresses at Noor’s Alterations at 1027 Broadway, across the street from Taco Bell. “I design party dresses, bridle dresses, prom dresses,” Muhi said. “I have big students discounts.” Wesal Muhi often designs dresses for Muslim women and girls who aren’t able to easily find good clothing elsewhere in Bowling Green.
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services 84,902 Iraqi refugees have arrived in the United States to start new lives.
When I asked Muhi if she overcame any challenges she said the International Center made things a lot easier. “The difficult part is the language,” Muhi said. Muhi holds down another job at Duke’s Sporting Goods. Between running her business and her second job, Muhi struggles to find time to take more English classes.
I asked Muhi what she likes most about her business. “I like all my business,” she said. “You have to love your job.”
If you are interested in learning more please call Emmy at (270-320-4976).
Dresses placed on a rack at Noor’s Alterations. Wesal Muhi, who goes by Emmy, designed these dresses herself.
Emmy tightens shoulder straps on a dress she’s working on. Emmy says you have to be careful with the fabric since it isn’t easy to work with.
Emmy fires up her sewing machine and goes to work on a dress.
Emmy carefully works with her sewing machine.
Emmy snips with her scissors at the fabric she is using to make another dress.
Emmy often makes custom dresses for local Muslim girls and women, providing a service that’s hard to come by in Bowling Green.
Emmy is done with the top of the dress a girl has requested. She says you have to make the top part first.
A piece of fabric stretches out on Emmy’s work table. Emmy will use the rest to make the bottom cover and sleeves of the dress.
Emmy uses her one of her tools, a measuring tape, to measure the dimensions of the bottom half.
Emmy tears a piece of fabric with her scissors. Amy says that people are afraid of her huge scissors.
Emmy measures a sleeve she is preparing. “My mother and grandmother taught me to use my hands to measure.”
The bottom half, top half and sleeves rest neatly on Emmy’s work table.
According to the Bowling Green International Center “An estimated 1 out of 220 people on the planet are classified as a refugee.”
While it’s true that Bowling Green hosts a wide representation of refugees from across the globe, some nationalities hold more of a majority than others. I spoke with Albert Mbanfu, executive director of the Bowling Green International Center, to get an idea of refugee diversity in Bowling Green, Ky.
One problem I discovered with monitoring Bowling Green refugees long term is that refugees often decide to leave Bowling Green altogether. Some refugees find that their nationality doesn’t have enough local representation to suit their needs. This influences them to move to larger cities where a certain community may be more robust. When I spoke with Mbanfu I learned that Somalis often fall into this category.
However, while some refugees decide to move on others decide to stay. For example, Burmese refugees in particular often stay within Bowling Green. I was provided with a list of the largest groups to arrive in Bowling Green. Of the 3,407 refugees to arrive in Bowling Green within the last ten years 1,651 were Burmese. The large Burmese community in Bowling Green may be a factor in the resettlement process.
To someone who has been uprooted from their former life and culture, community and a shared experience must be essential. For refugees, the resettlement process may feel isolating and strange. These small communities could help ease that transition and help them take their place in the larger community of Bowling Green.
Below, Barbara Day of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration explains the America’s refugee resettlement policies.
What is a Refugee?
You probably know that people from across the world immigrate to America each year to pursue a better life. Some people, however, have less of a choice and come to America to escape dangerous conditions in their homeland.
According to the Bowling Green International Center volunteer manual “A refugee is a person who is outside his or her country of origin and is unable or unwilling to return there due to a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group or a political opinion.”
Bowling Green has acted as a host to refugees from Bosnia, Burma, and Iraq. Here, refugees resettle with the help of programs that teach them English and help them find work. The goal is to help refugees assimilate so that they can live the lives they dream of, and become responsible citizens in the community.
What makes Bowling Green such a great candidate for resettlement? The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis said Bowling Green’s, “Plentiful jobs, along with affordable housing and a low cost of living, have made Bowling Green a prime resettlement area for immigration.”
Although people are often uprooted by the world’s chaos and turmoil, it feels good to know that Bowling Green is able to be a sanctuary for these people. It’s also humbling what we can learn from their experiences.
In the following video actress Angelina Jolie explains refugees are displaced and how we can help.