Making embroidery at the Hope Workshop
We last reported back to you about our work with refugees at the Hope Workshop in Amman, Jordan, last November. Much has happened since then and we have made good use of your generous donation. Perhaps most important we have shown that investing in refugees can produce an amazing return. It’s good to be reminded of this at a time when so many people think of refugees as a threat.
First a recap. Since 2016 The Advocacy Project (AP) has supported the work of the Collateral Repair Project (CRP) in Amman. CRP provides emergency services for refugees from war in the Middle East and as part of this they offer training to women refugees through the Hope Workshop. In 2016, we deployed a Peace Fellow, Allyson, to help 12 ladies of Hope describe their experience as a refugee. A group of quilters in Rhode Island turned their embroidery into two fabulous quilts which are still being shown at exhibitions.
Last year, at CRP’s request, we launched this appeal on GlobalGiving to strengthen the Workshop. Reina, our wonderful 2017 Peace Fellow, led the appeal and with your help we were able to raise over $10,000. This has allowed CRP to transform the Workshop from a crafts center to something more resembling a women’s business. I want to explain the outlines and vision in this email.
Recovery: The Hope women have fled from some of the most violent wars on earth and CRP’s first goal has been to provide them with a welcoming environment. Being with other women who have shared a similar experience is key. Before she joined the Workshop Sena (not her real name) worried away the time alone at home. Now, she says, “the group gives me the emotional support I needed. I can see a big difference in myself.” Others feel empowered by earning some money and being able to contribute to the family budget.
Story Telling: Embroidery gives the Hope women a way to express themselves and be heard. In 2016 the artists produced 25 dramatic squares describing what they had lived through and their two quilts make a powerful statement about the horrors of war and the bravery of refugees.
Their quilts have made such an impact on audiences that we have asked CRP that all new members of the Workshop should have the same opportunity, and last year another 22 Hope members obliged with squares that leave nothing to the imagination (photo). Here is an extract from one of Reina’s profiles about the artists: “Sahar, from Homs, Syria fled because of the war. She says that they were happy living in their own house, but once the war came so did the planes and bombings and they were no longer safe. Sahar was pregnant with her daughter at the time. The day she went into labor, they started to bomb near their home. Sahar went to the hospital and gave birth. ‘The first day of my daughter’s life and they had started the attacks. It became impossible to stay,’ she says. They moved to a temporary house for 3 months but there was no running water or electricity and Sahar's husband decided they should leave. They went to Lebanon but were unable to stay there. Then, they came to Amman, Jordan.”
This terse account cannot begin to sum up the terror that Sahar and her family lived through, which is why the embroidery is so important. The squares are currently being assembled in North Caroline by a master quilter, Bobbi Fitzsimmons, and will be ready for exhibit by early May. We are confident it will pack a punch.
But not all of the Hope embroidery describes war and repression. Sahar and the others have also used embroidery to express their hopes for the future and these 22 squares are being managed by the Federation of American Women's Clubs Overseas (FAWCO), which also supports the Hope Workshop. Barbara from FAWCO took six of the squares in Dusseldorf Germany, where they were made into a spectacular wall hanging to be auctioned at an event in the Hague. Kay in Michigan received the other 16 squares, which will be turned into a quilt and auctioned off in Washington in October. This is exciting for us here at AP. Not only will the voice of the Hope refugees now be heard in Europe, but the idea of advocacy quilting has caught on with a dedicated international network of women. This is a first!
Exhibitions: The first two refugee quilts have been shown over twenty times. They are particularly popular at universities, where they make a strong case for protecting and resettling refugees – a hard sell in this day and age. The first quilt was shown most recently at the University of Maryland on Good Friday and will appear next at Rutgers University in April. In Europe, Therese from FAWCO has been exhibiting the second quilt in the Hague and will soon take it back to Jordan, where she will show it the Hope artists and thank them in person. We will report back on their reaction.
Income generation: We are delighted to report that your donations now pay for four distinct activities at the Workshop – sewing, embroidery, calendars and crocheting – and that these are starting to generate a healthy profit. The sewing group produces cloth gnomes which are a hot item in Jordan. Hope calendars and cards are also selling well. In 2017, the Workshop earned $9,482.22 from sales – double that of the previous year. Our hope now is that the embroidery group can also start earning money, and with this in mind we have commissioned some sample tote bags which we will offer for sale here in Washington later in the year. If the FAWCO hanging and quilt fetch a good price, we hope they will join us again in 2019 for a repeat.
Training as empowerment: CRP firmly believes that training in the company of other women helps to develop skills and build confidence, and your donations are helping to make this happen. Reina organized training for four skilled artists in how to produce traditional Syrian and Iraqi stitches and they went on to train other women in the embroidery group.
Once again we hope that the embroidery training will lead to bigger things. CRP plans to open a new women’s center later this year and the training will hopefully include business management, marketing, and networking. Anisa, our associate at CRP, reports that some of the Hope women have already started their own micro-enterprises at home, drawing on the skills they have learned and the money they have earned at the Workshop.
Organization building: Our final hope is that the Workshop can grow as an organization and manage more of its activities – another important step on the refugees' journey to empowerment. How this happens will, of course, be left to CRP but we at AP stand ready to help. We have already deployed two Peace Fellows – Allyson and Reina – and a highly capable associate, Anisa, who has represented AP for the past several months. We thank Anisa for her service! We hope to send another Peace Fellow to CRP this coming summer.
It is exciting for us to see how the Workshop has grown in just two years – and we congratulate Amanda and her team at CRP. It is doubtful that this would have happened without your generosity and we are all deeply grateful. Your donations have also enabled us at AP to do what we love to do – help to plant a seed with a visionary partner and see it grow into an innovative model for change. And of course the cause of refugees could not be more important.
Reina, Anisa and the AP team
Memories from Iraq
Sharing stories of refugees with American students
Hope ladies watching assembly of quilt
Crocheting at the Hope Workshop
The FAWCO quilt symbolizes hope!