Reem has been with Hope Workshop since the beginning. Though she lives far enough away that she has to take a taxi to get to CRP, she never misses a meeting. “I love the place. I became so much better when I by coming here.”
In 2012, Reem was stuck in Syria. She had returned to her hometown to help her parents when the fighting began. Her husband, who is Jordanian, and her children, were back in Amman. The war in Syria prevented her from reuniting with them for a long time. But even when she finally could return to her husband and kids, she was still distraught. Even now, as she reflects back on it, her face is sad. “I was not happy because I left my mother and brother there and I still do not know anything about him after he was arrested by the army,” she explains.
But Hope Workshop has helped her not only earn a little extra income for her family, but work through her feelings. When she first signed up, she already had a talent for knitting and crocheting. “Everyone told me “‘you have to come.’” And so she did.
Reem has watched Hope Workshop grow over the years. When she first began, it was only for crocheting and knitting. That’s still Reem’s favorite part. But now Hope Workshop includes sewing, embroidery, and working with felt.
“We joke that Hope Workshop is like an eight-armed octopus,” says Judy Oldfield-Wilson, CRP’s Director of Communications. “When they meet, they really spread out all over the place. We have to limit how often they can meet, because we have to balance Hope Workshop with other programs at CRP. If each facet could meet every day, they would.”
Bev Heimann, Hope Workshop’s lead volunteer agrees. “There are over 45 women on the waitlist,” she says. There are 70 women currently enrolled in Hope Workshop. “We sell out of everything that we make. The only reason we don’t make more is that we don’t have the time or the space. We don’t have room for storage or to keep inventory.”
Hope Workshop prides itself on quality over quantity. In part, that renders more money, but it also gives the participants a greater sense of pride. Reem knows that feeling well. “I feel happy when I come to CRP,” she says.
The biggest challenge Hope Workshop faces is a lack of time and space, which prevents it from growing. That means those women stay on the waitlist, the women who do come are limited as to how much money they can earn, and there are few opportunities for women to really grow into leaders at Hope Workshop.
Bev encourages women to be as active as they can despite their circumstances. “I used to shop for the supplies in the Balad (Amman’s old downtown) and they would rip me off. Now I send the women of Hope Workshop and they get really good prices. They’re taking ownership.”
But without more time and space, it’s hard to do more. “We have an idea to rent more space across the street from CRP. This would allow Hope Workshop to meet more, and to really level up,” Judy explains. “But to do that, we have to find the money.”
Hope Workshop is pretty self sufficient. The women receive 90% of the sales of their items. The rest goes back into the collective for supplies. “It’s really amazing how it’s grown and how productive it is. But that means that in order to expand, CRP needs to help them get there,” Judy says.
CRP will not only need to rent but also refurbish more space. Eventually, we’d like to add more economic activities, beyond crafts.
Reem has seen Hope Workshop growing from the beginning, and dreams of big things for its future and for the women who participate. “I want it to grow because when it grows up, there will be more money.”
She also wants to see more women participating. “The most amazing thing is being with all these women and there is no difference between us, we are all the same here.” Reem explains that it’s not just a difference of nationality or religion. “All the organizations around us take women who are under 40 and I am older than 40, so they tell me no, sorry. This is the only place that accepts me.”
It’s because of women like Reem that we decided to use part of the funds we’re raising during our Spring campaign, Let’s Build a Better Future Together, to rent and refurbish more space for Hope Workshop. When word got out, a few of our donors got together and agreed to match all donations on Monday April 30th and Tuesday May 1st, up to $2500. $5000 will allow us to get enough space for Hope Workshop to finally expand and take that next step.
Donate right now and not only will your donation be doubled, it will go directly into more space for women’s programming at CRP. Click here to donate.