Migrants thrive at Buffalo’s West Side Bazaar

Buffalo refugees find community and thrive

A melting pot on New York's western edge.
Published: May 30, 2019 | Updated: May 20th, 2020 at 6:02 pm

Nadeen Yousef left her home country of Iraq for a better life in the United States and knows firsthand the challenges refugees face here.

The ban on travel the Trump administration imposed on visitors from certain predominantly Muslim countries led to her being delayed when flying home to Buffalo from Jordan via Toronto. That’s when an official at the Toronto airport warned her she would get in trouble traveling to a Middle Eastern country without being a full U.S. citizen.

The hassles of traveling internationally aside, the 45 year old has found living in the U.S. for the past four years promising. She owns Macrame by Nadeen, a craft boutique in Buffalo’s multi-ethnic West Side Bazaar.

The Bazaar itself is a melting pot of people from all over the world. Because of its diverse makeup, and its location just about a mile from Canada and its very different migration policies, the Bazaar makes an ideal location to talk to people about their experience as new Americans.

Yousef said the Bazaar community feels like a family with most shops being owned by fellow women, refugees or both who like her saw the opportunity as the basis for their new American lives.

“It is very interesting when you meet people who don’t speak your language, not even English,” said Yousef, who added that she still finds a way to communicate.  “My work means a lot to me. … It makes me feel proud and independent.”

Naing’s husband Jerry also volunteers at Journey’s End Refugee Services center where he translates the Burmese language and helps teach spoken English to refugees.

“We have different populations and a close community in Buffalo,” Jerry Naing said.

The couple now considers Buffalo home and don’t envision themselves, the parents of two teenagers, returning to Burma.

“My kids are here,” Jerry Naing said. “I know I’m not going anywhere no matter how much I miss home.”