Refugees are forced to flee their country due to war and conflict, they hope to find refuge and a safe new home. In the last two years, 7000 refugees have found a home in a community outside of Atlanta called Clarkston. There are numerous wonderful social service organizations in the area, but the great need of the community is jobs. Most refugees do not speak English, so there are very limited opportunities, resulting in a lack of options resulting in most jobs coming from a local chicken factory. These factories treat their workers horrific, with stories of being physically and emotionally abused. These people have come to find refuge in America, unfortunately they are continuing to experience patterns of injustice and suffering.
This is why we created the Billboard Bag Project
. We employ refugees through a 1 year job training course learning sewing skills, English, and financial management. Our goal is that after a year in the program they would be able to move into jobs where they have the opportunity to earn fair wages and to further their dream to flourish in America.
Kay was a leader in Burma
, where she is from, before she was forced to flee her country. With her leadership skills she gleaned before she came to Georgia and her incredible worth ethic, she was a an incredible fit to lead our project here. For two years, she worked at the chicken factory, then would go to local ESL classes as she knew this was her only way toward total freedom. She is a self starter and influential person in the community. This is why we asked her to be the example for our project. She is currently leading 7 women through the job skills program, showing them the way to making a home and life in a new country.
Our current sewing machines have produced 35,000 products. They are currently being made on household level machines. We need to upgrade to industrial quality machines for two reasons. 1) Our current machines are struggling to survive, each machine has been used close to 3000 hours. This is causing our organization to spend roughly $200 each month in repairs. 2) To best prepare our program participants for their future jobs, they need to be trained on the same machinery as their future employers use.
Over the next six months, we hope to transition all of our machines to industrial level quality and speeds. The results will increase our efficiency in production, prepare our participants for the future and help us make a better product that we are able produce today. Each sewing machine and training will cost our organization $2000.
Please, help us reach our goal, so we can continue to upcycle billboards and change lives.
If you lined up every billboard created in American from one year of advertising in a straight line, it would reach beyond the distance from New York to Los Angeles (in total over 2700 miles). Here at Plywood People, we see an opportunity to create jobs and make really unique new creations. We believe that the broken can be made beautiful again.
We partner with billboard companies in a positive way. They don’t want to be hazardous to the environment, so they choose to contribute to their excess billboards to us after they have been taken down from the side of the road. Most wooden billboards have a large vinyl banner material that is draped over the physical structure. We get loads of this banner material and up-cycle it into new products.
We hand cut the material, cleaning it to make sure each piece is adequate for redistribution. Then comes the sewing. The sewing is all done by the bag being turned inside out. Each stitch is lead through the process by an individual person. When the basic design is complete, the bag is flipped inside out and details such as velcro, the strap, binding, etc. are added to finish the bag.