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From Refugee to Entrepreneur – The Story of Nadeen Yousef

Author: Michelle Holler

In Honor of World Refugee Day we interviewed one of our vendors, Nadeen. Below is her story of how she went from moving her family from place to place to avoid war, to making a new home and life for herself and her family here in good ole Buffalo.

Name: Nadeen Yousef

Country of Origin: Iraq

Shop: Macrame by Nadeen

Languages Spoken: Native tongue Arabic, English, some French and Turkish

My journey to buffalo:

In 2003 the war started in my country; Iraq. We were rich but every year we started losing resources because of the different groups killing each other. The military cut off supplies, and we couldn’t find water even though there were two rivers coming in. In 2006 many people started to journey to other countries such as Jordan, Egypt and Syria.  I went to Syria with my family in a car just like an American would. We rented a house, our kids went to school, and my husband found a job as a chef. But then after 6 years of getting adjusted the war started in Syria. We were forced to flee to Turkey because of all the bombings and shooting of my neighbors. During this process my family applied to go to America as refugees with the international institute. I moved back to Iraq after one year because my kids were having trouble in school speaking Turkish. One more year in the Middle East until we go to the United States as refugees. It was not an easy process. It took months of preparing and leaving everything we owned and knew behind us, including my wedding pictures and pictures of my children growing up……Imagine putting your whole life into one bag.

My store in the West Side Bazaar:

I started my store because when you have a design in your brain, you can take it and make into art. I learned the basics of macramé in high school, where every girl takes macramé. After high school I took a course, woman proficient in macramé, for a whole summer. After one year, when I was just 15 my mother rented me a table at an art show to sell macramé, and they put my name in the newspaper because I was the youngest artisan. In buffalo I gave a manager at the International Institute a handmade gift, and she gave me a card for WEDI.  When I started I had  just one hanger. Now I sell wall decorations, jewelry, and a new line of signs. Next week, I will begin to make belts.

Future Plans:

Grow/Expand, I sell just three items now, I want to make like twenty items to sell and continue to grow in the field of Macramé. I brought a dream with me to my new home: to open my own business. Thank you to the agencies who helped me achieve my dream: the International Institute of Buffalo & the West Side Bazaar.


Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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