A TRUER WORD
Something new greets me every morning when I walk through our blue gates. We are embraced by a rare beauty that envelops and enfolds us in an unconditional way, a beauty which offers us the chance to work alongside it and to tend all things beautiful. A beauty that, may I dare to say, takes us back to a forgotten memory.
As I do my morning stroll, checking on fresh water for our rabbits, the fruit ready for picking from our mulberry trees, down to the sports field where Salam is busy with a new mural, and Khero is laying new irrigation for more flowers, I think of the wisdom and perception of the young Anne Frank, who saw beyond harsh reality, who dared to think differently from her mother. A young girl who chose differently.
"At such moments I don't think about all the misery, but about the beauty that still remains. This is where Mother and I differ greatly. Her advice in the face of melancholy is: "Think about all the suffering in the world and be thankful that you are not part of it."
"I don't think Mother’s advice can be right because what are you supposed to do if you become part of the suffering? You’d be completely lost. On the contrary, beauty remains in nature, sun, freedom and yourself. If you just look for it, you discover yourself, and God, you will stand out."
Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank.
We have been blessed to be able to create a place of beauty, so that our family of students have the freedom to find the beauty in themselves and to truly stand out. I have shared about our Sewing Hope in a previous edition, today we will zoom in on three ladies who as they heal, as they discover the beauty, the gentleness, the strength in themselves are now creating a very special design line, Hope Couture. Because beauty remains. Because they stand out.
Hope Couture will formally be launched at Rosh HaShana with a series of designer bags all decorated with the pomegranate. Not all of our Sewing Hope ladies are currently part of this project which exists to give space for creativity to develop. Each lady works at her pace, armor off, face masks off, pores gently cleansed, getting used to seeing one's natural face in the tent mirror, accepting personal beauty and value before it can reveal itself on fabric.
"I never went to school, I have no education, I can't even read or write, though now I will learn. I had always been told that as a woman I am nothing and I had no future. I have never believed in myself and have accepted that message that rolled over from one generation to the other. My life was a reflection of that message, empty, without hope, without a dream, and certainly without believing that I had value and could do whatever I chose. The possibility of success never occurred to me.
Then life changed. I don't know who found who, whether I found Springs of Hope or they found me. The next thing that I knew was that from sitting in my tent and preparing food and cleaning all day, I was now co-director of Sewing Hope. My world had changed in one minute.
I found myself in the sewing room, surrounded by color and beauty. With flowers on the table and a basket of fresh fruit every day. I saw beauty, the beauty began to invade my soul and my dreams. I discovered that I had a voice, I could imagine beautiful things and my thoughts and ideas and opinions mattered and were listened to and accepted.
By bringing my ideas to the design table, it encourages women. Most of our students have no education, many were in the captivity of ISIS, they are all women who have said, "We have no future.” I now am part of the creative process where we can help them to believe that they are worthy and do have a future.
We are now sewing and embroidering beautiful bags which we will sell. There is a message in each of these bags. Some take many many hours to create, some of the bags contain our tears, some contain our laughter. Each bag holds sorrow, and each bag holds our dreams. I hope that the people who will buy them and use them, will learn that it could have been them. I hope that they will look at us not as poor uneducated refugees but as strong women who are discovering our beauty and our strength and we are empowering ourselves and others.
My mind has exploded. It has gone outside my tent, the doors of the tent are no longer my limits. I dream and my dreams will come true. I no longer look to see what is missing in my tent, but I hold the bags and turn them over and inside out to see what is missing, what is the one element that will make them perfect.
My dream is to be a wonderful designer. To create and sell something so beautiful that all who see it, will want to buy it. I dream of a husband and children. I dream of supporting myself and my family so that even in suffering and hard times, they will always have something beautiful to look at and enjoy."
"I came to Springs of Hope with nothing. No education, no experience, no CV, nothing. Just myself and a dream to succeed. A dream to be different from other Yezidi women of my age. A dream to stand out.
I knew how to sew very basic things from material that reflected the color of my life, black and brown. Life has burst open for me through Sewing Hope. I think for each stitch I put into a garment, something torn in my life also gets mended. We had a Zoom call with a wonderful lady from the United States whose grandmother was a refugee and at the age of 70 I think, began to sell her designs in the clothing stores of America. When I heard her story, I thought to myself that if she could do it, and be successful as a woman and as an immigrant, so could I.
I am thrilled that we are now making bags to sell. I hope that these bags will send a message to the world that the Yezidi genocide did not destroy us, that Yezidi women who started with nothing, who had the very little that they had taken from them and only have a tent, that these beautiful items were made by those who have nothing but are making something great with their lives.
I am proud when I sew something and I look at it, looking for flaws, for mistakes and I see that it is perfect. My goal as a Yezidi woman is to be a successful businesswoman, to support myself with pride and dignity, to be independent. My future will be bright, and that happens stitch by stitch."
"I am so happy to be making these wonderful bags. I am so proud that we can sell them and use the income to help the Sewing Hope ladies.
The sewing room is lifegiving. It is the place where I can encourage the women around me all of whom are uneducated, have never been given a chance, and to show them that they can do it, they are able, they have a skill and they can use and develop that skill.
As we sit and process the making of a bag together, the ladies begin to talk and become animated. Suddenly they discover that they have an idea, and that idea is valuable and becomes part of the process. That then encourages them when they return to their tents to sit, think and dream of color and design. To return to the sewing room with fresh ideas. By making and selling bags we are sharing our inner voice with you. We are sharing our souls. That process is not easy for us.
We want the world to know who we are, what our culture looks like. I want to say, "Hey world, look at the Yezidi woman, despite years of suffering and being downtrodden, she is strong and gifted."
When I am working on the bags, each thread pulls together all the scattered thoughts in my mind, it pulls together the problems and the hardships and helps to turn my thoughts into a creative expression. I am in a different world when embroidering. For example, each bag requires many hours of work but I can do it without getting tired. The only sound I hear is that of my mind, gently telling me how to make something beautiful of value.
When I was a child I dreamed of designing. I dreamed of walking the streets and seeing people wearing designs on which I had worked day and night. For me, it begins with a designer bag, with the label Hope Couture.
Sewing Hope, it has indeed given me hope. I hope that our designer bags will be received with the love and respect that we have sewn into them."
- Sahla, Director of The Hope Centre.
Dear reader, may I encourage you to commission or purchase a bag from the Hope Couture line. Our bags are not cheap. But then our ladies were sold for nothing. They are now learning their worth.
By doing so you are agreeing with us that the beads and the embroidery that we sew with great care, the colors for which we search in the bazaars beyond our village, are of more weight and substance than the collected evils of this broken region. The lives and stories that are being sewn into these bags speak a truer word than all the bloodshed and harm.
For information on commission or purchase please contact me directly firstname.lastname@example.org The land between the two rivers still has no postal service. FedEx and the like cost a fortune. We use mule mail which takes time, so plan ahead of time and exercise patience in the process.
We are blessed to know an extraordinary outward looking community which has become a family on the East Coast of the USA. They are busy sourcing amazing materials and trimmings, only new, only perfect to ship to us. Should you wish to participate in the pursuit of beautiful fabrics for us, and are willing to shoulder some of the shipping costs ( via Boombinere ) again, please contact me.