Blankets provide warm welcome to new Afghan arrivals

Atlanta Design Museum Executive Director Laura Flusche displays one of the blankets donated to the museum as part of the Warm Blanket initiative. The program was created to give refugees from Afghanistan a warm welcome to the country. Miguel Martinez/for The AJC
Caption
Atlanta Design Museum Executive Director Laura Flusche displays one of the blankets donated to the museum as part of the Warm Blanket initiative. The program was created to give refugees from Afghanistan a warm welcome to the country. Miguel Martinez/for The AJC

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Museum of Design Atlanta teamed up with Welcome Blanket on donation project.

Four handmade blankets are hanging on the walls at the Museum of Design Atlanta, but they won’t be there for long.

The blankets are slated to be delivered to some of the hundreds of Afghan refugees and humanitarian parolees who have been arriving in Atlanta over the past few weeks.

“It’s amazing,” said Laura Flusche, the executive director of museum. “You’re trying to remake your home, and having something that somebody made with a lot of love and care … might be very nice.”

The museum teamed up with the Welcome Blanket on this project. The nonprofit organization calls on people across the country to make blankets as a way to give newly arrived immigrants a “warm welcome” into the country.

The museum first hosted the Welcome Blanket in 2018 as part of an exhibition called “Making Change: The Art & Craft of Activism.” The exhibition explored the contemporary craftivist (craft + activism) movement in which practitioners of traditional craft forms address social justice and human rights issues in their work.

Flusche said the decision was made to bring back the project this year, when “we realized that a great number of Afghan refugees were headed to the United States. We wanted to be part of welcoming them and to provide an opportunity for craftivists to join that effort.”

The museum defines design broadly, according to Flusche, and “we believe that it is one of the most powerful tools we have for making change in the world and that we can all have a hand in designing the world we want to inhabit.”

Caption
Tiffany Ricks, left, community engagement coordinator, and Miranda Hazelwood, visitor experience manager at Museum of Design Atlanta, organize the blankets that have been donated. The blankets will be on display to the public. Miguel Martinez/for The AJC

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Tiffany Ricks, left, community engagement coordinator, and Miranda Hazelwood, visitor experience manager at Museum of Design Atlanta, organize the blankets that have been donated. The blankets will be on display to the public. Miguel Martinez/for The AJC
Caption
Tiffany Ricks, left, community engagement coordinator, and Miranda Hazelwood, visitor experience manager at Museum of Design Atlanta, organize the blankets that have been donated. The blankets will be on display to the public. Miguel Martinez/for The AJC

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Growing up, Caren Sacks heard her grandparent’s stories about fleeing antisemitism in Russia and Poland. It was through those stories that she learned about the heartbreak and hardships of starting a new life. She hopes her quilt will provide some comfort for newly arrived families as they begin their journey in the U.S.

“I truly hope the Afghan immigrants who receive these welcome blankets feel the care, the comfort and the warmth that they were created with. To know that they are welcomed here by most Americans,” Sacks, who lives in Mamaroneck, New York, said via email.

Jayna Zweiman, the founder of Welcome Blanket, created the project in response to the Trump administration’s proposed border wall.

The intention was to recast the 2,000-mile distance of the wall into 2,000 miles of handmade blankets that would be given to newly arrived refugees, along with a welcome note by the blanket’s maker.

“The idea of the blanket is really giving someone a hug,” Zweiman said, adding that blanket makers have included refugees, immigrants, and people who’ve been displaced by natural disasters, such as wild fires. “It’s really mind boggling in some many ways that we all have these narratives of displacement, and really creating that connection.”

Caption
Atlanta Design Museum Executive Director Laura Flusche shows one of the blankets donated to the Warm Blanket Project on Nov. 10, 2021. The museum plans to collect hundreds of blankets through the Welcome Blanket Project to deliver to Afghan refugees who will soon arrive in Georgia. Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Atlanta Design Museum Executive Director Laura Flusche  shows one of the blankets donated to the Warm Blanket Project on Nov. 10, 2021.  The museum plans to collect hundreds of blankets through the Welcome Blanket Project to deliver to Afghan refugees who will soon arrive in Georgia. Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Caption
Atlanta Design Museum Executive Director Laura Flusche shows one of the blankets donated to the Warm Blanket Project on Nov. 10, 2021. The museum plans to collect hundreds of blankets through the Welcome Blanket Project to deliver to Afghan refugees who will soon arrive in Georgia. Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

When it’s time to distribute the blankets, Flusche said the museum plans on working with local resettlement agencies to get the blankets to newly arrived immigrants. And one of those blankets holds special meaning to Flusche because it was made by her late grandmother Rose, who lived to be 101.

Flusche believes her grandmother “would have loved,” her blanket, which is made out of fabric samples, to go to a newly arrived family.

“We’re a country build on immigration,” she said. “Almost all of our ancestors were new to this country and to receive a welcome … I think is a wonderful thing.”

Paradise Afshar is a Report for America corps member covering metro Atlanta’s immigrant communities.


Blanket donations

Blankets can be dropped off or mailed to the museum at: 1315 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA 30309 until Jan. 15. For more information, visit the Welcome Blanket website.

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