Behind the hands that begin to sew clothing items inside of Neighbors Apparel in Akron, is a refugee hoping to start a new life in a country of acceptance and opportunity.
Asma, a refugee from Pakistan, has battled with finding a home where she can build a better life for her family.
Coming to Akron was a step in the right direction.
“Nobody understands us, our feelings, our emotions,” said Asma. “Here in America, someone treats us as a human being.”
After arriving to America earlier this year, Asma connected with Tessa Reeves who launched Neighbor’s Apparel two years ago to help employ refugees break down barriers and offer culture and history through handmade clothing.
“Get those stories into the hands of people across the country who have never interacted with a refugee and tell powerful stories through that,” said Reeves. “That’s a win for me.”
Recent talks of refugee settlement plans have created some concerns within the community.
President-elect Donald Trump has held strong views on immigration and refugee resettlement plans.
It’s something that’s hard for Reeves to think about when she considers Asma and other refugees family.
“Knowing who they are. Not just ‘you’re just another human being like I am ,’” said Reeves. “But knowing what you’ve been through and what you’ve overcome to get here.”
Just a half mile away from the shop on Tallmadge Avenue sits the International Institute of Akron, a non-profit organization that has helped hundreds of refugees resettle into the area.
There is an increasing population of refugees that have resettled in North Hill, where some have opened retail and grocery shops.
For Reeves, no matter what happens moving forward, she plans to remain focused on her goals.
“I’m ten times more motivated than I was yesterday to keep doing what we’re doing here.”