The UNHCR Country Office in Cyprus chose handcrafted fabric baskets sewn by refugee women – together with volunteers – in Pafos as an end-of-year gift to partners and collaborators this holiday season. “UNHCR encourages skills development and economic inclusion of refugees. Enabling them to become self-sufficient is key – both to them rebuilding their lives, but also to contributing valuably to the host society,” said Katja Saha, Representative of the UNHCR Country Office in Cyprus.
The women who have been sewing together are from different countries including Syria, Cameroon and Somalia. Each has fled her home country and arrived in Cyprus seeking safety. They meet regularly with volunteers from Mazi and The Learning Refuge to develop and share their skills. The opportunity to use their sewing skills or to learn new skills from each other has helped many women to support their families, while developing a sense of belonging in a community. The refugee women and volunteers in Pafos have been busy sewing together the past several weeks, in the lead-up to the holiday season, creating items that will be sold at seasonal bazaars and markets. The proceeds go to supporting refugee families in Pafos and the fabrics used are upcycled from donations received.
Sharing sewing skills - refugee women and volunteers in Pafos. © The Learning Refuge
Refugee women find independence and a sense of community through sewing groups in Pafos. © The Learning Refuge
When people are forced to flee their homes and homelands, they are usually only able to take very little with them – a mobile phone, a few documents, perhaps a small bag of clothes. But what every person brings is a diverse set of skills, and a strong wish to work and be self-sufficient. Rebuilding a life in a new and unfamiliar country has unimaginable challenges, especially for refugee women. It takes courage, strength, and resilience to move forward, and a sense of community and belonging can be transformative. UNHCR thanks the volunteers whose kindness and generosity contributes to making refugees feel more welcomed and at home also during this holiday season.