Emily went to Texas State University and received her Bachelor of Science in Fashion Merchandising and Business Administration, then headed off to Ohio for a Master of Arts in Clothing, Textile and Interior Design at the University of Akron. Looking for a warmer climate, she moved to California to work in product development for a costume manufacturer, while also teaching college courses at the Art Institute of California- San Diego. After missing her home state of Texas, she moved back and continued teaching higher education in fashion management, sewing, and patternmaking at the Art Institute of Austin.
Emily joined Open Arms in January 2015 because she was looking to set her roots in the Austin community while using her knowledge of the fashion industry. She is committed to helping and advocating for women while participating in the growth of sustainable and ethical fashion.
Thang Zuali, Head Production Seamstress
Thang was born and raised in Burma but was forced to flee because of internal conflict in her country, now called Myanmar. She and her four children were on their own for seven years while her husband was in a Malaysian refugee camp. He then came to Austin and it was another three years before she and the children could join him, which was in October 2013. Thang took a sewing training class with MRC in 2014 and picked it up quickly, despite having no prior sewing experience. Within a year, she had been hired at MRC’s Open Arms social enterprise and was later promoted to lead production specialist, managing customers’ design specifications and ensuring efficient order fulfillment for clients such as IKEA and Newton Supply Company. She enjoys learning new designs and hopes Open Arms will continue to grow. She dreams of someday buying a house and wants a good education for her children above all else. Thang also enjoys growing vegetables.
Rhonda Cabello, Sales & Customer Service Coordinator
Rhonda is a native Texan and originally a small town girl. She has an undergraduate degree in Fashion Merchandising and Business and a Master of Education degree from Texas State University in San Marcos. She has worked in the retail industry, banking and sales management. Rhonda has also volunteered in many different capacities through the years, including through her children’s school, church, and Refugee Services. She first began working at Open Arms in 2015 as a volunteer because it fit her skills and her interest in working with refugees and empowering women.
Farzana Safi, Production Sewing Apprentice
From Afghanistan originally, Farzana came to America in 2017 with her husband, four children, and her brother. She learned to sew in her home country but got most of her sewing education from MRC & Open Arm's industrial training class. She joined the Open Arms team in May 2018.
Sam Then, Production Seamstress & Key Holder
Sam came to the US in 2011 after being a Burmese refugee in Malaysia for three years. She learned to sew from her sister in Burma. She currently lives in Austin with her husband, two children and brother.
Biak Thliang, Production Seamstress
Biak is from Burma and came to the US in 2013. She learned how to sew at MRC's beginning sewing class. She lives in Austin with her husband and two children.
Maria Vung, Production Seamstress & Apprentice Lead
Originally from Burma, Maria was a refugee in Malaysia for four years before coming to the US with her family in 2012. She was originally resettled to Louisiana. Her family the moved to Austin because of the strong Burmese community here. She lives with her husband and four children. She learned how to sew by taking a class in Burma in 2005. She started at Open Arms in April 2017 and has interests in design, color-matching and growing her knowledge of sewing. In addition to sewing, Maria is also MRC’s industrial sewing class teacher. She and her husband both recently took their citizenship test and are officially American citizens!