Tammy Goes to Houston: Part 1

June 6, 2016

I dropped Nell an email and told her I would like to come visit and volunteer with her for a weekend. We made the plans and I made a long drive to Houston. Saturday started early with a 6 AM departure to help set up for the “Free the Captives” 5K.  This was their second year for the 5K and they were up from 500 registered runners to 800.  The purpose of the 5K is to raise awareness of human trafficking in this particular “hard-to-reach-with-this-message” Hispanic neighborhood.


The Greens were in charge of water and manning the half-way station along the route.  I manned the fruit table.  A lot goes into holding a 5K and I learned that if you provide food for 5K events you must have a certain amount based on the number of participants you expect.  We had way too much fruit but fortunately, there was a church at another table that offered to take our left overs for their homeless ministry.

We headed out early (before tear down!) for lunch at home provided by international friends, (Aida and Parvin, her mother) who wanted to treat us/me to authentic Persian food.  Aida is one of the international students who has become part of the Green family. They were waiting on us when we arrived and although I can’t tell you what I ate, I can tell you it was good!  And good again as left-overs dinner!


After lunch, a little rest, and clean up, Nell and I headed across town for her to interview a new possible tailor for Threads by Nomad.  Due to a previous experience with a woman where poor communication led Nell to believe she could “sew anything Nell wanted her to sew” only to find out she had never cut fabric, used a pattern or done anything other than sew a straight seam on an assembly line, Nell was understandably nervous.  She and Christen really wants this business to not only be successful but also to model to other small business owners that it makes good business sense hire refugees.  So their hires need to be exceptional.


We drove across town to a small alterations shop (Alterations by Grace) owned by a Christian Thai woman Nell met through one of her many people-meeting avenues.   Grace met the interviewee through another friend – seems the refugee community is pretty well connected.  Hayder is from Iraq and has been in the states about 18 months.  His English is weak but he understands more than he can speak.  He understood enough to have some fun playing with Nell’s mind.  A co-worker came with him to help translate.  Through the course of the conversation/interview we found out Hayder has done a lot of sewing for a local Houston designer (Amir Tighi) who had his first NYC fashion show last year.  This increased Nell’s confidence in his abilities a bit!  He enjoys working for the designer but he only gets paid when a garment sells, so would like to have a more steady income to provide for his family.


So this is how his interview went:  Nell handed him three pieces of fabric, two pictures of garments, and one verbal description of a garment with a few measurements and asked him to make the top she described, while we watched! Yikes!! But he did it and in the process he fussed about the quality of the fabric, the lack of correct marking chalk, and the thread which told Nell he knew what he was doing.

While he sewed and Nell supervised, I made the two mile trip to WalMart for more thread.  They aren’t kidding about Houston traffic.  That quick errand took about 45 minutes!


The MOST fun stop of the weekend was at the Office Depot copy desk.  This was not Nell’s usual printing place but it was convenient (or at least the location was) for what she needed.  Watching the clerk attempt to fill out the copy order form was a true treat.  I’m sure I could have completed Nell’s order at the self-serve machine in the time it took this girl to write up the order.  Thirty to forty-five minutes later we were on our way.  Oh, and that 45 minutes was just to place the order.  No copies were actually made.  I’m not sure I would have left my originals there!

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