Culturingua receives visit from Duke and Duchess of Sussex

Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, visited Afghan refugee women who are part of Culturingua’s Sewing for Success program, a Welcome Project grantee. The Duke and Duchess were hosted by Nader Mehdawi, Culturingua COO, and Nadia Mavrakis, Culturingua CEO, respectively.

The Welcome Project, a program of the Archewell Foundation, supports the programming provided by Culturingua for women who have recently resettled in San Antonio from Afghanistan. Through Culturingua’s Sewing for Success classes, these women benefit from group gatherings where they develop their sewing skills and build community.

The evening began with the Duchess joining Afghan women in cooking a community meal which included bolani, a traditional Afghan flat bread; mantu, Afghan dumplings; and bamiya, a curried okra dish.

Afghan women in Culturingua’s Sewing for Success program (left) and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, (left) cook bolani, a traditional Afghan flat bread. Photos courtesy of the Archewell Foundation.

The Duchess also experienced a sewing lesson led by an Afghan trainer, where the Duchess measured and cut the fabric for a skirt. Following the lesson, the Duchess viewed some of the dresses designed by the Afghan women in their community sewing program.

Riga Tarin, Culturingua Afghan Community Navigator; Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex; and Nadia Mavrakis, Culturingua CEO, display some of the dresses designed by the Afghan women in their community sewing program. Photos courtesy of the Archewell Foundation.

Meanwhile, Afghan community leaders, Culturingua board members, and other community leaders engaged with the Duke to discuss the community-wide support for families settling in San Antonio after leaving Afghanistan.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex (Center left) and Nader Mehdawi, Culturingua COO (center right), with Afghan community members, Culturingua board members, and other community leaders. Photos courtesy of the Archewell Foundation.

“The Duke and Duchess have been incredibly generous to the families through their support of this program. Because of their foundation, we are able to organize a third cohort of the Sewing for Success program, including providing each woman a sewing machine, fabric, and a sewing trainer who meets with the women twice per week. The Afghan women are able to emerge from isolation and feel more empowered to hold gatherings just as they did back home in Afghanistan,” said Nadia Mavriakis, CEO of Culturingua.

Mehdawi highlighted the importance of programming that supports Afghans that live in the Medical Center, where the majority of Afghans and other refugees live. “The Medical Center has become a de facto community hub for the refugee community, where they are able to socialize, gain support from neighbors, access grocery stores with halal meats, and attend worship services. The Archewell Foundation’s support for programming that enables Afghan neighbors in the Medical Center to come together to celebrate their cultural heritage and learn new skills is at the heart of what San Antonio’s culture is about,” said Nader Mehdawi, COO of Culturingua.

An estimated 4,000 Afghan refugees have settled in the San Antonio area, primarily in the Medical Center region, following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. Evaluating Afghan Evacuees’ Resettlement, a national report recently issued by the Urban Institute who partnered with Culturingua for the San Antonio interviews and analysis, highlights needs of Afghan evacuees including the need for additional mental health support, opportunities for women, and programs that foster social connections.

At the end of the evening, in honor of International Women’s Day, Mavrakis read a quote to the group by Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, that said “Women make up more than half of the world’s population and potential, so it is neither just nor practical for their voices, for our voices, to go unheard at the highest levels of decision-making.” Culturingua then provided the Afghan women with a gift – cell phones, provided by refugee funder and supporter Welcome.US, to help the women activate their voices, and a scarf, so they can speak in style.

Culturingua uniquely provides culturally-relevant services to these families. In addition to Sewing for Success, they provide animal husbandry and culinary training programs, youth language and cross-cultural classes, and peer support programs to address trauma experienced by many refugees. In addition, they are starting a Community Land Trust in the Medical Center to support low- and moderate-income Medical Center residents to build wealth.

Local supporters of Culturingua include the City of San Antonio, the H.E. Butt Foundation, Social Venture Partners San Antonio, LISC San Antonio, the San Antonio Area Foundation, Methodist Healthcare Ministries, and many others. Visit the Culturingua website to learn more about their mission:


Culturingua’s mission is to cultivate, promote and preserve Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian (MENASA) cultural, linguistic, and artistic heritage to invest in human, community and economic development.