In the fall of 2007, Hill Country Hill Tribers began as a grassroots organization—literally. When we were first introduced to the Burmese hill tribe refugee community in Austin, they were huddled in the grass at a fall festival sponsored by our church, Westover Hills Church of Christ.
In that first year, a friendship grew. Out of the friendship came some informal meetings, ESL classes and children’s activities. Soon our new friends began giving us beautiful handwoven bags as thank you gifts.
With an eye on international fair trade and social entrepreneurship principles, we believed that those beautiful bags, coupled with mentorship, education and support, could mean a way out of poverty for our friends.
The next fall, in 2008, our church graciously hosted the first annual Artreach Fair and Direct Trade Festival. Our refugee friends were joined by other fair trade organizations with Austin connections, like Dominican Joe, Ethical City and Eternal Threads. In one day, the women sold more than 70% of their bags. We knew we had found a home in the heart of the Hill Country for the Hill Tribers.
In the spring of 2009, Hill Country Hill Tribers incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. In the years since, we have expanded from weaving to include sewing and jewelry-making projects to encourage more refugee artisans to earn extra income.
Since our incorporation in 2009, we have helped more than 30 refugee women and families earn a combined total of more than $25,000 of supplemental income. In 2011, more people than ever joined us in supporting the artisans–we tripled the amount of total income the artisans earned. Our goal is to continue to learn and grow alongside the Austin community’s most courageous (and creative) new members.