Stepping into Kin & Care, a small candle shop located in Kensington, Maryland, you are immediately enveloped by comforting scents of lilac, sandalwood, lavender and cinnamon.
But the beautiful smells are really an added bonus to the immense good that Kin & Care is providing the local refugee community.
"A good candle, with a good cause," is at the heart of Kin & Care's mission explains owner Ferzan Jaeger. Every candle proudly displays a sticker celebrating "Made in America by Refugees" — underscoring the importance of the company's mission, a cause Jaeger is so passionate about.
Ferzan (left) with Manal at the Kin & Care shop.
Ferzan, herself an immigrant originally from Turkey, has a deep empathy for the challenges refugee women face when arriving to the United States. For Ferzan, meaningful employment and compassionate support are the keys to helping newly arrived families make a new life in Maryland.
“Once a refugee finds a job, they're part of this community, they're no longer a refugee,” Ferzan shares.
But finding meaningful employment can be difficult for refugees who are already overcoming numerous challenges when first resettling to U.S. Refugees often face language barriers and challenges due to cultural changes, and the ease of integrating into new communities can vary depending on gender and ethnicity background. Ferzan is acutely aware of these obstacles.
“The best way to help somebody transition to a new life is a good job,” says Ferzan. “From that came the idea, ‘why don't we make our own candles and have them be poured by refugee women?’”
Through a mutual friend, Ferzan was introduced to Manal Alolabi, a Syrian refugee whose family resettled in Maryland in 2016. When they first met, Manal was employed, but then the pandemic hit and Manal was in need of new employment. Meanwhile, Ferzan was looking to hire a full-time candlemaker.
“The team here [Kin & Care], it's like family,” shares Manal. “I'm happy every day to come [to work] and make candles.”
As pandemic restrictions ease, local markets and fairs in the Washington, D.C. region have reopened and Manal is taking a leading role representing Kin & Care in these markets. As Kin & Care grows, so do opportunities for Manal.
“Manal is extremely smart and very capable,” says Ferzan. “I always call her my partner. We're partners in this.”
The Kin & Care brand and mission are being embraced by other local Washington, D.C. retailers. Amanda McClements, Creative Director and Founder of Salt & Sundry, proudly sells Kin & Care candles in her D.C.-based stores.
“One of the most powerful things that I can do as a shop owner is stock goods that have a positive impact in our community and in the world,” says Amanda. “When I find a product with a mission like Kin & Care, we bring those products in, they're beautiful, they're functional and they have an amazing story.”
For Manal, working at Kin & Care has both empowered her economically and helped her build a community in Maryland. When she first fled Syria, she never could have envisioned the path her life would take, but now she is in the position to provide a hopeful future for her children and help other refugees being resettled to the U.S.
“When we came here [to the U.S.] we just thought about safety and good opportunities for our kids,” Manal shares. “We have a good situation… now when other Syrian families come, we support them and help them.”
How can you help...
USA for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency supports the full journey of refugees like Manal. Not only do our donors help refugees in their greatest time of need, but their support builds awareness for resettled refugees living in the U.S. Refugees like Manal have woven themselves into the fabric of American society and are making lasting contributions to their communities. With your help, more refugees will have the opportunity to build a peaceful life and give their family a bright future.