This Initiative Helps Displaced Women Weave a Brighter Future

Women learn how to transform recycled material into beautiful, one-of-a-kind handicrafts.

Oct 22, 2020

(Patrick Foto / Shutterstock.com)

For displaced people, arriving in Greece marks an important milestone in their journey to a better life. In camps run by the Greek government, they receive critical aid including housing, food, and medical treatment. And now, thanks to Love Welcomes, they are receiving a more secure future.

When British social development expert Abi Hewitt visited a refugee camp near Athens, the experience deeply impacted her, according to InfoMigrants. “The thing I was most struck by on visiting Greece at the time was the amount of sheer boredom,” Hewitt remarked. 

“There was no reason for people to engage in their own life,” Hewitt said. “So we set about creating a workplace and skills training center for refugee women.”

Hewitt, who had previously managed a life skills program for at-risk women called Thistle Farms, reached out to her former boss, Becca Stevens, as noted on the Love Welcomes site. 

Stevens expressed interest in the idea of a creative social enterprise to help empower these displaced women. Another colleague from Thistle Farms, Frannie Kieschnick, quickly joined the team. The trio co-founded Love Welcomes in 2017, in collaboration with the women of the camp. 

The initiative teaches female residents of the camp how to loom. They learn to transform recycled material into beautiful one-of-a-kind handicrafts, including welcome mats, placemats, sofa cushions, small crocheted bags, and keychains.The skills the women learn in the program are just as important as the funds they earn from the sale of their handicrafts.

“When we sell products, the profit from that goes back to the women,” Hewitt explained in a undefined on the website. “We are now employing 42 women by the end of this week. It makes a massive difference to every single woman, to their family, and to everyone living in this camp. I am very proud of that.”

Alongside the opportunity to earn money, the women find that looming lifts their spirits. A program participant named Laure shared her story on the video, “I can say in the beginning, when I enter[ed] Greece, I was like, what can I do with my life?”

Laure struggled to stay optimistic, explaining, “But when I heard about Love Welcomes and started looming, all of these thoughts suddenly melted,” she said. Learning the craft helped Laure maintain a positive attitude.

As the initiative has grown in popularity, it has attracted attention from well-known artists, recently partnering with two high-profile collaborators for special, limited-time products. 

Graffiti artist Banksy, a  well-known artist, designed a custom doormat for Love Welcomes. The doormat, priced at $645, immediately sold out and has a long waiting list, according to The Guardian.

Prominent British textile artist Margo Selby also joined the Love Welcomes team for a collection bearing her name. “The women in my family have always made textiles and I’ve been involved in weaving all my life,” Selby told The Guardian. “It’s been wonderful to work on something that has human value to it.”

According to Love Welcomes, 32 women from the program have been granted permanent residency in European countries, now armed with experience that will help them find employment. Empowered with the skills to create a wide variety of beautiful handicrafts, the women of Love Welcomes are weaving a brighter future for themselves and for their families.

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LAUREN MARCUS, CONTRIBUTOR
Fascinated by storytelling since childhood, Lauren is passionate about the written word. She’s a freelance writer who has covered everything from the latest developments in tech to geopolitics. When she’s not writing, Lauren is interested in genealogical research and family folklore.