In 2010, following repeated bombings and death threats, Basma Alawee fled Iraq with her husband and young child, leaving behind family, friends and a career as an engineer. She arrived in Florida as a refugee – finding safety, but also new challenges in a community that didn’t seem to understand her story.
As a woman, a Muslim, a non-native-English speaker and a refugee, Basma faced discrimination as she and her family struggled to adjust to life in a new country. Separated from her tight-knit family and community, she eventually found connection and hope in the stories of other refugees and immigrants. She focused on volunteering – later becoming the Florida refugee organizer – and began sharing her own experience. The reactions she received inspired Basma to create WeaveTales with a single goal: to help other refugees harness the power of storytelling and create more welcoming communities.
“Every time you listen to someone’s story, it changes you,” says Basma. “Every story is different and deserves to be heard – every story is a step in bridging our divides and bringing us closer to one another.”
Founded in 2019, WeaveTales shines a light on the often-unheard individual experiences of refugees. The organization empowers refugees to share their personal stories, providing support and a platform to raise awareness of the ongoing crisis and bridge cultural divides within communities.
“For many, the refugee crisis can feel too large or too divisive to talk about,” Basma explains. “That’s why it’s important to make the topic feel personal. At WeaveTales, we focus on the experiences of individual refuges and on connecting neighbors within local communities.”
WeaveTales invites refugees of all kinds, from across the country and around the world, to participate in their programs – helping them learn how to use their voice to share their stories in unexpected ways. Free to the organization’s participants, WeaveTales’ New American Speaker Series helps refugees craft and share their stories through public speaking, books, exhibits, films and more.
So far, WeaveTales has helped more than 300 refugees nationwide share their stories. But their work isn’t about big data points – it’s about the personal experiences. Refugees involved with the organization describe the opportunity to share their stories as healing, and they often emphasize how crucial it is to have a supportive community of people willing to listen.
“I will never forget the care that WeaveTales took with [my] story,” shares Laura, a Bolivian immigrant and WeaveTales storyteller. “It’s so important to support storytelling always, but especially at a time when the world is experiencing so much suffering and isolation. What we have is each other, and our stories.”
And you can help. Share WeaveTales stories today and help build more inclusive and welcoming communities for all.