The women trickle in to CRP’s meeting room, exchanging hellos and commiserating about the midday heat. It’s clear many of them are old friends, demonstrated by the kisses and warm hellos they exchange. Shatha, my fearless co-leader, and I, try to start the meeting several times over their chatter.
These women all belong to the Hope Workshop, a cooperative craft group led entirely by refugees. Members design and market handmade crafts in local bazaars throughout Amman to generate a modest income to support their families’ needs. The creativity of these women is limitless, and over they years they have produced a variety of products, including handmade washcloths, paper bead jewelry, handbags, and hats (their biggest seller). Today we met to discuss the next project they’ll tackle- embroidery squares to be assembled into advocacy quilts, depicting personal stories of their lives as refugees.
Now, I am a creature of habit. A planner. So, when first tasked with this project, I had so many questions. What thread will they use? Where will I purchase the materials? How will we agree on the designs and draft them for production? Logistical issues, as usual, dominated my thoughts. These worries were melted away by the know-how and patience of Shatha, Program Manager at CRP and coordinator of the Hope Workshop. Not 10 minutes into my first day at CRP, Shatha was pulling out yet-to-be-sold products, proudly displaying them and describing the work that went into each one. She assured me that the Hope Workshop women would be more than up to the task, and excited to get started on a summer project, despite the fact that we’re mid-Ramadan.
She couldn’t have been more right! Once Shatha helped me explain the project to them, the women were brimming with ideas for what to draw on their squares. One woman wanted to depict an extremist fighter next to a young boy crying. Another wanted to embroider a picture of her family members who were killed in Syria. A third women from Iraq wanted to juxtapose traditional Iraqi bread with guns, side by side on a table. As I write this, I’m floored by their creativity and humbled by their willingness to share their experiences through this project. Their motivation and energy is inspiring, and I’m looking forward to our next meeting, where we will review their designs and I will learn the stories behind them.
With love from Amman,
Posted By Allyson Hawkins (Jordan)
Posted Jun 24th, 2016