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How Sister Mary Eileen Boyle and Esperanza Threads help refugees get a new start in Cleveland: Game Changers

This life-changing Cleveland program teaches sewing, job skills and helps the environment, too.

CLEVELAND — Sister Mary Eileen Boyle has certainly seen a lot in her 52 years serving God, but it’s the stories she’s heard from refugees that will break your heart.

“These people did nothing to warrant such violence," she explained to 3News' Dave Chudowsky. "We do have people who are coming from situations like that. They are victims of torture. We had one woman from the Congo who I had noticed that she had scars. She was speaking in Swahili, and I heard the word machete and I was like oh no. She had been slashed."

Her mission? To help these people as much as possible.

For the past 20 years, she’s done her part to help them get a new start through a program in Cleveland called Esperanza Threads.

It’s a training program that gives refugees and low-income individuals an avenue of possibilities, including a chance at fair-paying jobs to support their families.

“Our main focus is the training," she explained. "Being able to train people who need to have a skill to be able to give them fair-wage jobs with benefits.”

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Not only does Sister Mary Eileen train them to sew, she also teaches the routine aspects of simply having a job with four weeks of training in a structured, yet nurturing environment.

“They might be able to stay with sewing for a long time, and some of our people have used that as a stepping stone so that they're beginning a work history."

Today, she’s expanding her vision to help even more people from the homeless community, recovering addicts and returning nonviolent offenders.

But there’s even more to this mission. Esperanza Threads also produces a clothing line, using organic instead of conventional cotton. It comes at a cost, but more and more customers are seeing the vision.

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“There are a lot chemicals that are used with cotton With a typical conventional cotton T-shirt between a quarter to half a pound of chemicals are used for just one shirt.".

More and more customers are seeing the vision.

“When people are buying things, they'll have different reasons. Maybe they just like the style, or they like the design. They may be into the environmental piece, and then when we tell them the story of who is benefiting, very often, that's the clincher! They want to support this because it's not just taking a little onesie home and giving it to somebody. This represents giving somebody a chance to be able to start a new life.”

An opportunity there for the taking, thanks to this inspiring Game Changer.

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