On World Refugee Day last June, we raised $10,000 in conjunction with Advocacy Project, to expand our popular women’s craft collective, Hope Workshop. Since meeting our goal with your generous help, we’ve been able to add an embroidery program.
Besides buying embroidery supplies, we sent some of Hope Workshop’s members to train in embroidery and then come back and teach others. Like other facets of Hope Workshop, the women will create and sell their crafts, retaining the vast majority of the profit from what they sell. Only a small portion goes back to the collective—just enough to keep the program sustainable.
Hope Workshop also provides a therapeutic atmosphere for the women, who have fled sectarian violence in their home countries. There’s a reason, too, that it’s all female. Anisa, Hope Workshop’s current intern, explains, “We don’t know the extent of the trauma and violence these women have witnessed and endured. Some may have experienced violence at the hands of a male family members or soldier. CRP wants to create an environment where refugee women can relax, feel safe, and talk with other women without censoring themselves. In other words, they can let their guards down and take off their hijabs and learn to trust people again.”
“Embroidery or crocheting or any form of art therapy helps people who have lived through a traumatic experience express their thoughts and emotions without having to say much. They let the stitching do the talking for them,” Anisa says. “For instance, a few of our participants stitched pieces of beheadings they’ve witnessed in their hometown, a father being held at gunpoint in front of his children, and another stitched a piece of her family escaping the violence and chaos.”
Samar, a brand-new participant at Hope Workshop experiences the common feelings that many refugee women in Amman share. Beyond the anxieties that come with leaving for a new community and facing issues of poverty, isolation and boredom are perhaps the most common psychological threats for individuals who turn to CRP for assistance. “I have experience in crocheting and embroidery before,” she says. “So, it was nice to come here and work on things with the other women.” Samar says she’ll be returning for the next week.
Like Samar, some of the participants are very experienced in embroidery already. Often times, these participants or the trainers will help out with other women who have less experience. This cooperation and the craft itself provides the best possible help for the participants. The workshop creates a sense of normalcy, while at the same time provides an outlet for the frustrating and stressful refugee experience. “All of the squares express feelings of loss, violence, destruction, and pain of being separated from their respective families,” Anisa explains. “While at the same time, they’re embroidered of attachment to their homeland, belonging and hope of one day returning home.”