The Welcome Project began when Wave Pool Art Center's Director Cal Cullen teamed up with Heartfelt Tidbits' Director Sheryl Rajbhandari to start offering art classes to refugees. Within a matter of months the women in the classes began inquiring about selling their goods and dreamed of having a space of their own to run a shop and classes out of. Serendipitously, the building next to Wave Pool became available and The Welcome Project was born. The name, logo, and even the color of the walls was entirely directed by the women who work here. Now one of the refugee women who started the project, Lourdes Martinez, works as the store manager, many of the women teach classes to the public through the space, 7 refugee artisans are regularly employed, and other refugee women use the space to pilot their own entrepreneurial endeavors.
Welcome's mission is to empower marginalized and at risk refugees and immigrants by providing affordable housing, jobs, education and skills training, so that they will one day take these opportunities and turn them into a lasting, better way of life.
Local immigrant and refugees bring developed skills to their new home but lack the ability to utilize these skills due to language, economic and business barriers. Welcome helps solve this by engaging them in a social enterprise including a retail store that also functions as a workshop and educational space.
There are approximately 20 women working weekly with the existing artesian programs offered by Wave Pool and Heartfelt Tidbits. They are from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Tanzania, Bhutan, Russia, Mexico, Nepal, Congo, Eritrea, and other countries.
As executive directors of small non-profits, Cal and Sheryl understand the importance of leveraging and engaging partners and the value that they bring. Both feel this venue will be new and exciting to Cincinnati. The desired outcome is not only success for the participants in the program but that other cities will be inspired and leverage this model to assist with the development and economic opportunities for their newest neighbors.
Cincinnati has a rich heritage of being an immigrant city. While the city has 80+ providers that do a tremendous job in assisting with welcoming refugees, we recognize the need to expand this. Many who are marginalized and at risk feel isolated and vulnerable. Their art enables them to share their voice without English language and build friendships. Our goal is that through this business we will empower immigrants and refugees with knowledge and break down the barriers related to employment and housing that many face.
people are forcibly displaced worldwide, refugees who left their home where it was too dangerous to stay.
of refugees worldwide are ever resettled. Most live their lives in refugee camps.
were resettled in Cincinnati last year. Most came from Bhutan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
If you live nearby and would like to help, we accept volunteers regardless of skill level. We specifically need help cleaning and rehabbing the storefronts, transporting people to our programs, and teaching new skills to our newest neighbors and our larger community. Contact us to sign up. Donations are also vital to the feasibility of this project. You are most welcome to make a tax-deductable donation to help us continue and grow our program offerings.