By Kalyn Story | Staff Writer
Meredith Lockhart was disappointed and frustrated by many Americans’ response to the Syrian refugee crisis so she decided to do something about it. volunteering with local groups and asking them what she could do to help refugees in Dallas. She was told one of the hardest things for immigrants coming to America is finding a job, especially for women.
According to the U.S. State Department, Texas resettled 2,677 refugees between last October and March. The Dallas area received 659 refugees during that time. Seeing a great need, Lockhart started In April 2011, the Baylor graduate opened a jewelry store employing refugee women in Dallas.
“As a Christian, I am commanded to love and welcome refugees,” Lockhart said. “We are commanded to make disciples of all nations. How amazing that the Lord is bringing the nations to us? There are people in my own backyard who may never have heard or seen the love of Christ if they did not move to America. I want to, and I will show them the love and acceptance of Jesus Christ; it starts with me and all Christians loving and accepting them.”
Her business is called Meltgoods, and she currently employs two refugee women who work from home making jewelry that Lockhart sells online at meltgoods.com and at local markets.
One of those women is Huda Altaie, a refugee from Iraq who applied for 10 years before she was allowed to move to the United States. Altaie was a civil engineer in Iraq before she fled with her husband and children, seeking safety from the war plaguing her home country.
“I thank God that I have come to Texas with my family,” Altaie wrote in an email to the Lariat with the help of her husband to translate. “My experience working with [Meltgoods] has been so great as it helped me to express the skills I have and combine my specialty as a civil engineer with my hobbies in arts and drawing, and all that happened through the great opportunity I was given by Meredith Lockhart to work for Meltgoods.”
Altaie also volunteers with an elementary school helping new Arabic-speaking students to adjust to school and providing them with English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.
Lockhart enjoys getting to know Altaie and learning about her culture and Muslim faith. She said the recent rhetoric about Muslims and refugees saddens her.
“It breaks my heart when people say we should ban Muslim immigrants and not allow refugees,” Lockhart said. “This view that Muslims are dangerous or lazy or come here to commit terrorist acts is so false. The more I get to know this community, I see that they are hard workers and are so loyal to America. Refugees are so thankful to be here, and I am so thankful to have them.”
Lockhart said Altaie specifically has shown her beautiful things about Iraqi culture. Lockhart said Altaie and her family are so hospitable, Lockhart has even brought friends over to Altaie’s home for dinner.
“They have so little but will offer everything they have,” Lockhart said.
Altaie has similar feelings toward Lockhart.
“Working for Meltgoods means the world to me,” Altaie said. “Meredith has helped me to become a person that can provide for my family. I really love working for her as she always impresses me about with much she has to offer to refugee women.”
Lockhart traces her inspiration to serve others as well as her love for traveling and embracing other cultures back to her time at Baylor.
“It is ingrained in the Baylor culture to think beyond yourself and glorify God with your gifts,” Lockhart said.
Lockhart hopes to expand her business and employ more refugee women one day and hopes her brothers and sisters in Christ will also open their hearts to refugees.