“All of us are coming from different backgrounds, different hardships and hard times” says Sofia who was forced to flee her home in Ethiopia, she continues “We are here trying to make a difference. We have dreams, we can work, we can achieve and grow along with Love Welcomes”.
Today Sofia is being trained and supported to create the unique hand-made Guitar Straps designed by U2’s legendary guitarist The Edge in collaboration with Arran Evans and Alex Threadgill. When asked if she has a message to everyone who has pre-ordered one of the special Guitar Straps she pauses for a moment and then says: “To be honest, it means the world.”
Not only is every strap providing employment to refugee women but proceeds from each sale goes back to the refugee community.
Sofia is one of 19 female refugees who are now employed to work on the collaboration between The Edge and social enterprise Love Welcomes, yet for her the new project has special resonance; she explains “Since I was a child I was a fan of U2 so working on this project had made me feel really excited. Honestly I am such a fan and would love to learn how to play the guitar”.
The support and dedication from The Edge makes a real and lasting difference to the lives of women seeking out a better future. Each time you buy one of the unique guitar straps, you’re supporting a refugee and her family as they begin to rebuild lives shattered by war, one stitch at a time.
Sofia explains the time required to hand create the Guitar Strap. She says “It takes time because cutting precisely requires so much concentration. When you finish the strap it needs to give that perfect look”.
Each individual Guitar Strap also includes the orange fabric from disused life vests found on the beaches of the Greek island of Lesvos. The life vests have been used by desperate refugees risking the treacherous journey in search of safety, security and a better future.
The disused life jacket has proven to be a tricky piece of material for the women to work with, and Sofia explains “the vests have already been sewn and so trying to make a straight line from a worn vest is tricky. We are having to deconstruct them in order to upcycle, so technically its difficult. Sometimes we might need to iron them to turn a curved life vest into something straight.”
The women working on the guitar straps have had to leave their homes because of violence, war and poverty. Sofia shares that “we are all of different backgrounds. There isn't a meeting you don't learn something. You will always learn something from other people with a different experience to yourself.”
“I really enjoy this job. I enjoy working with my teammates together” says Helen and is now in her second week of training on the new project. The proceeds from the Guitar Straps provide support for refugees as well as employment to the women creating them and Helen adds “I really appreciate the work of Love Welcomes, because my work is helping other refugees. In the future, I want to be a founder of an organization like Love Welcomes.”
In the first week of preparing the products everyone is working in pairs supporting each other through the process. Teamwork is key for the process with all the women involved in the making of the Edge guitar strap.
Lewawi says “Love Welcomes is a home for refugees. It is a home for women. I can focus on my work with the cutting and measuring of The Edge Guitar Strap. I can focus my mind, because I have a lot of flashbacks from my past.”
The women are learning basic seamstress skills, from measuring to accurately cutting to hand embroidery and machine sewing. The training has included one intensive day going through the whole process then each following day the women have more time to focus on the separate stages of the production.
During the upskilling and training Nada from Sudan shares “Before my dream was to be a designer, I think this is the beginning for me to improve my skills and study in university to be a designer. When I feel stressed just to hold my needle to sew, it is relaxing for me. I have found nice friends to work with at Love Welcomes. Love Welcomes saw my inner self, and it is coming through now.“
Sofia like many of the women employed to work on the project already has hope for the future. She says “My hope is that I want to be around enough to grow with Love Welcomes and see it making a difference in many people’s lives. It can travel the world and it is amazing to be part of such a project. It’s an honour.”