Layla sits at the loom in the Love Welcomes workshop in a Greek refugee camp.
“Our grandparents were weavers back in Syria, so I love this work”, she says. She discovered the workshop after fleeing the war in Syria. “First the weaving was difficult”, she recalls, “but step by step it becomes easier”.
Our workshop is based in three converted shipping containers -- known as isoboxes -- in the women-friendly zone of the camp. With men not allowed here in the daytime, the area is a safe space, especially for those recovering from sexual violence and abuse.
When the workday starts, the women arrive and divide into groups. Some will work on the looms, some will weave bags and purses, while others prepare materials.
At lunch the women often eat together. They come from different places, speak different languages and have diverse experiences, but their sense of community and camaraderie is strong.
As the women work they’re able to spend time together, which lends a real sense of positivity despite the harsh conditions. “The camp feels like we are in prison”, Mira says, “but when we come here, we forget our problems”.
“Working with Love Welcomes I now feel very confident and my time is going very well”, she continues. “I’m very happy working here. Now we have a daily routine: I go to work, my girls go to school and then we eat together at the end of the day.”
The proceeds from the products made by the women pay for services for the entire camp. This includes a daily bus service to Athens that enables people to meet with lawyers, visit doctors or go to markets.
Some residents of the camp are incredibly entrepreneurial. As a result of the transport services to markets, refugees have managed to launch a dozen microbusinesses within the camp.
“We feel very proud that we bring in money to provide services for the whole camp”, one woman affirms. “We help people.”
At the end of the working day the women head back to their living areas. “We live in isoboxes and have communal kitchens”, Thaura explains. “I am able to cook a lot on my little stove outside my house as well. When we first came here, we only had the bad army food that we tried to make tastier by adding spices and other ingredients. Now we can make the food ourselves and choose what we eat, and since we get the same vegetables and spices as in Syria, we can make the food we are used to.”
When you buy products made by the women of Love Welcomes, you help them carve out a normal existence in spite of the challenges of the camp. To all of our supporters who make this possible, we send our heartfelt thanks – today and every day!
Names have been changed in order to protect privacy.