Ruwaida has been many things. A mother, at 17. A refugee at 24. Newly settled in Atlanta, GA with her husband and two children, she is poised to become something else: an entrepreneur. We are raising money to help Ruwaida start a cookie business and become the primary breadwinner for her household.
I met Ruwaida and her family through my friend Amanda who became a friend by sharing flowers with me and in addition her son's giving heart who shared his Spider Man with a young boy I was helping. I immediately fell in love with the cookies and eventually with Ruwaida and her family. The G's live less than a mile away from my house, Decatur, GA, and their kiddos go to the same schools mine do!
We tend to see the family on a weekly basis. The plan for the funds raised through this campaign are to allow Ruwaida to make her baking talents into an official business here in the U.S. She needs to setup her business through official paperwork, purchase a membership with a local shared kitchen, buy supplies and hopefully purchase a delivery van. Oh, and they will soon learn about insurance..I believe this is something that isn't so prominent in Syria.
I, Marnie Grodzin, will withdraw the funds as they need to be withdrawn in a timely manner. In the first couple months of 2017 we plan to complete the paperwork to create a LLC for Ruwaida along with a business banking account. It is at that time the funds will be transferred to Ruwaida/her company.
The Full Picture: Four years ago, in the darkness of early morning, 24-year-old Ruwaida and her husband Khaled walked away from their home in Syria in the hopes of making it to safety in Jordan. They walked with their 4- and 8-year-old children, Khaled’s brother and mother walked with them, as did so many other brothers and mothers looking to escape the brutality of the war. For six and a half hours they walked over the mountains. They told the children they were going on a trip. Their daughter helped carry the babies of the women whose husbands had been killed.
The family ate everything they could eat before they left, and took with them only the smallest things they could carry. Cell phones—a photo album and life line, of course. Jewelry--Ruwaida lined her arms with bracelets, her neck with chains, as if she were going to all the parties at once. Each piece was sold when they reached Jordan, paying for the things the family needed to survive. With nothing left to sell when they reached America, Ruwaida was grateful that she still had, at least, the small wooden cookie mold that her mother had used to teach her how to bake traditional Syrian cookies. It was the only other thing she had carried with her when they left their world behind.
Now in Atlanta, GA, where the family was resettled this summer, Ruwaida is using that wooden mold to bake cookies for her new American friends. Any time the family has visitors, Ruwaida puts out a plate of cookies and serves cardamom-spiced coffee to show gratitude, even as they struggle to make food last.
Through her cookies, Ruwaida is sharing a side of Syria that most Americans sadly won’t get to experience—one that is warm, generous, and so very sweet. Encouraged by her new friends, Ruwaida made cookies to sell at a local neighborhood music festival. The idea was to get a sense of her entrepreneurial interest, drive, and endurance. And to get a sense of the market. Would people be interested in the flavors and textures of these cookies? In cuisine from Syria? Made by a refugee? The answer was a resounding “Yes!” Within three hours, and before the bands even started playing, Ruwaida sold out of the 45 dozen cookies she had diligently prepared and packaged in the days leading up to the event. Although Ruwaida has never worked outside the home, after her experience at the music festival, she has become determined to share more of this sweet, sweet side of Syria with the world. And her husband is proud to support her as she does so.
Since the family does not yet speak English, it has been difficult to find work. Through her cookies, we’ve all realized that Ruwaida has the capacity to support her family NOW, before she or her husband are fluent. To start her business, Ruwaida needs a larger and consistent commercial kitchen space, which costs $800 per month. We are fundraising for $15,000. This would cover kitchen rental expenses for one year, licensing costs, insurance, ingredients, and supplies. If we exceed our goal, which would be fantastic, the excess funds will be utilized to design and build an ecommerce website and cover other business expenses.
Four years ago, Ruwaida and Khaled made the decision to leave Syria for the safety of their children. They left behind two apartments—now destroyed. They left behind two electronic stores—bombed. They left behind family—in Syria and in Jordan. Family who goes days without electricity, days without food. And yet they have gained safety, security, a great education for their children in a welcoming neighborhood. They have gained life-long friendships. If we can help Ruwaida start her business, she will also gain a sense of pride in her new role as primary breadwinner.
Who are we? Amanda has been a close friend to the Gs since they arrived in July. Marnie and Sonia became quick allies to the family after tasting Ruwaida’s cookies. Paula has not only helped with day-to-day support for the family, but is an advisor as well. Al is the liaison for the sponsoring church and has assisted in numerous ways along with being a supportive "brother" for Ruwaida's husband. This group of five have committed themselves to helping Ruwaida launch her cookie business. Amanda is taking 6 months away from her own business to assist with development and launch of Sweet, Sweet Syria.
Thank you for helping this family spread deliciousness and love from Syria, a place at which so much hatred has been directed.