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New Mexico group empowers refugee women

Founder to speak at PC(USA) webinar on church and community relationship building

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

A new gardening project in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is helping young adults learn how to grow produce. (Photo courtesy of New Mexico Women’s Global Pathways)

LOUISVILLE — When Nkazi Sinandile learned that refugee women in her adopted city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, were having trouble retaining employment because of various barriers, she created another outlet for their talents in 2009.

“Initially, we were sewing (patchwork) bags,” which are sold to the public, Sinandile said. “We also were involved in beading and then weaving because we had women from Nepal who knew how to weave, and of course, English as a Second Language training was part of that.”

Sinandile, who is originally from South Africa, is the founder of New Mexico Women’s Global Pathways, a job- and educational-skills development program of the Immigrant and Refugee Resource Village of Albuquerque (IRRVA).

She will be one of the featured speakers during The Struggle is Real, an Oct. 29 webinar hosted by the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People (SDOP). The topic will be church and community relationship building. (Register here).

New Mexico Women’s Global Pathways helps women develop and market their job and educational skills through sewing projects and other efforts. (Photo courtesy of New Mexico Women’s Global Pathways)

“I think churches need to open their eyes and pray to be strong to be able to start reaching out because it’s not easy” with “language barriers and things like that,” said Sinandile, who has worked in partnership with La Mesa Presbyterian Church, SDOP and other organizations over the years.

Positive things can take place when people take the time to reach out to those who are different from them and embrace them as their own, she said.

“My husband and I, we did not know anything about African refugees, or any other refugee coming from these different refugee camps,” she said. “But we saw the need and heard about the need and then made up our minds that no matter what, we will try to reach out to these communities.”

The Sinandiles have worked with women from various African countries in the last several years.

Nkazi Sinandile and her husband Lungile reach out to refugees in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Photo courtesy of New Mexico Women’s Global Pathways)

The current group includes about 15 young adults (primarily Africans) and a growing population of Afghan families, she said. “Our goal is to also reach out to the other immigrant populations, like from Latin America, so we can all join together in trying to create income.”

Last year, New Mexico Women’s Global Pathways participants were involved in helping to sew thousands of masks with inscriptions to promote the 2020 Census as part of a collaboration with the Southwest Organizing Project, which provided stipends for participants.

“The masks were given free to deserving communities that really could not afford to buy masks,” Sinandile said. “We killed two birds with one stone — promoting the Census and then preventing COVID.”

Last year, participants in New Mexico Women’s Global Pathways were involved in sewing thousands of masks with inscriptions to promote the Census as part of a collaboration with the Southwest Organizing. (Photo courtesy of New Mexico Women’s Global Pathways)

More recently, “We started a gardening program where young adults are being taught to build garden boxes and to grow,” she said. “They are growing vegetables mostly.”

It’s important to reach out to refugees because of obstacles they face when they come to the United States, such as limited English skills and difficulties finding adequate transportation and childcare, Sinandile said.

To keep her organization thriving, Sinandile said she practices “friendship building” and collaboration. New Mexico Women’s Global Pathways received a $20,000 SDOP grant in 2012. The money helped participants continue doing their sewing projects, Sinandile said. It also helped the group to purchase a computer to learn more about marketing and to use computer software to work on their English skills.

New Mexico Women’s Global Pathways also is part of a collaborative with about five organizations. “We get together and we apply for funding and do activities,” Sinandile said.

Working in silos is not good, she said, “because when you need help, then you don’t have people to rally around you.”

SDOP Coordinator the Rev. Dr. Alonzo Johnson said Sinandile’s organization epitomizes the core understandings of communal strength and determination.

“We are incredibly excited about Nkazi Sinandile being with us and lifting up the powerful work of New Mexico Women’s Global Pathways at this iteration of The Struggle Is Real event,” Johnson said. “We know that in the upcoming webinar, Nkazi and our other speakers will inspire and engage attendees to think more substantively about what it means to build sustainable relationships of possibility and hope.”

The Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Its work is made possible by your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.


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