A woman trying to make a life for herself in a Greek refugee camp has described how working a loom has saved her life.
Laure, from Cameroon, is just one of the ladies being supported with the help of social enterprise Love Welcomes.
The organisation, launched in 2017, aims to get struggling refugee women back into work by teaching them employable skills to build their confidence, encouraging them to stitch back together their broken lives.
And, not only this, but each working woman, who create beautiful products like welcome mats made from reclaimed life vests, is paid a real salary for their work.
For Laure, the experience has been life-changing.
Reflecting on her first days after joining the camp (where Love Welcomes is based) back in November 2018, she said:
“I was traumatised, I had nothing to do and I really felt bad.
“I had so many bad thoughts in my mind – but one day I happened to meet a lady called Ellie. I tried to approach her and tell her how I felt in my container, what had been going through in my mind.
“I was thinking, ‘what am I living for?’”
At the time, Ellie, who helps to run the Love Welcomes programme on the ground, told Laure that they were expecting to open some new looms and would get back in touch with her when they were ready to go.
“I told her if I can have a job, if I can just have something to do myself, I will be very happy.”
Five months ago, she joined the Love Welcomes team and hasn’t looked back.
Now she says her days are more focused and she has something to get up for in the morning. She said:
“I feel very good weaving because, first, it keeps me occupied and, secondly, because it makes me stay with people. The ladies I work with, we are so happy being together.
“This is what Ellie has always told us from the beginning – she wants happy people, she wants to be with people who cherish what they are doing.
“We try to get on with each other and I really enjoy when I come to work.”
The money Laure earns now is used to support herself in the camp but also helps her to care for her family back home.
But for her, the main thing has been having a routine, which sees her get up at 8am to get ready to go to work, before heading to the workshop for 9am each day. She said:
“A single woman like me, if I have nothing to do, I will always go to the authorities [services in the camp] and disturb them.
“I’m traumatised, I have bad thoughts, I have bad dreams, I felt like committing suicide – these were the thoughts going through my mind.
“But when I knew about love Welcomes and I started looming, all of these thoughts suddenly melted.
“I had nothing to think about; now, I focus and I don’t go to the office to disturb the authorities.
“I don’t need to go to the psychologist to tell her what I’m facing.”
And on the future? She said:
“I’d love to carry on weaving if I have the privilege. If only I can leave the camp and find something like this elsewhere to do, then I will be very happy to continue weaving, because it has really been a great help to me.
“This is the truth about weaving and the truth about Love Welcomes.”
To find out more about the products produced by Laure and other courageous women in Greece visit our shop