Refugees’ Stories Come Alive Through Embroidery

Over the course of the past two months, the women of the Hope Workshop have been working hard to produce beautiful embroidered squares detailing stories from their lives as refugees. The squares they’ve produced will be assembled into quilts, for sale and for exhibition, and the funds from the quilt sales will then go directly back to the women themselves.

The stories of these women’s lives as refugees in Jordan really shine through their incredibly creative work.

Hope Workshop Member, Damiya

Damiya is from Baghdad and came with her family to Jordan in 2013. She heard about CRP from neighbors and came to the community center first for English classes. With her foot in the door, Damiya started to become more and more involved in CRP activities, first with gender trainings, and then also with Hope Workshop. “I wanted more confidence,” she says. She was afraid when she arrived in Jordan. “It was a new society. Dealing with people was challenging,” she says. She attended some leadership trainings at CRP and this changed her. “I started to love myself,” she says, and she wanted to meet new people from different backgrounds and learn about different cultures. This is part of what initially drew her to join the Hope Workshop.

Her design depicts “a woman looking for freedom.” Damiya explains that her legs are stitched together, and that she cannot walk. Her hands as well are shackled together, to show that she is powerless to help herself. The wings represent her desire for freedom. Damiya’s dream is to travel, “but the wings won’t carry me anywhere despite the strength I’ve found.”

Damiya’s embroidery

Damiya says that pressure from the outside can give you energy inside, and that the Hope Workshop offers her an outlet to put this energy to use in a productive way. She says she feels stronger in Jordan, since she is better able to help herself and her family, partly through the extra income she generates through the Hope Workshop. She says in Jordan she has become more self-expressive, which has helped improve her relationships with family members. She’s more aware of the society around her, but still fears for her family’s well being. She is currently hoping to be re-settled with her family in Australia.

Wa’ad, a member of the Hope Workshop

Originally from Baghdad, Wa’ad arrived in Jordan on January 1, 2015, two days after her birthday. Her friends connected her with CRP, and after meeting Shatha, the coordinator of the Hope Workshop, she decided to join to learn new skills. As a member, Wa’ad says that she remembers hopes that she had forgotten for a long time. From the very beginning of her involvement, she has made many friends and feels empowered being a part of the group.

Wa’ad’s embroidery

Wa’ad’s designs represent strong memories of hers from her time in Iraq. Her first image depicts an “accident” that happened to her in her home. She lived alone in Baghdad, she explains, and one night militiamen entered her home and beat her. They wore all black, an she could only see their eyes. It was this incident that caused her to leave her home for good and travel, alone, to Jordan to start a new life in Amman.Despite these difficulties, Wa’ad has hope for the future. She enjoys life moment to moment, she says, and many of her happy memories and experiences in Jordan come from the friendships she’s made in the Hope Workshop and at CRP.

As you can see, the images are powerful and evoke strong and often difficult memories for the women. Producing the squares has given them the opportunity to come together, utilize their creativity, build connections with one another, contribute to a larger project, and feel like part of a team. Many members of the CRP community, including the women of the Hope Workshop, face financial hardship living as refugees in East Amman. People here love to work, but often cannot find jobs as refugees in the tough Jordanian economy.

The Hope Workshop gives women the opportunity to put their skills to use while generating small amounts of income for their families. It also serves as a community space, and provides the women with leadership and financial management opportunities. The Hope Workshop is one of CRP’s longest running programs, and has new members joining each year contributing their creative and management skills as part of the collective.

The quilts that will be assembled from these squares will not only be intricate and beautiful works of art, but they will tell the stories of these women- stories of migration, struggle, and hope- with each and every stitch.