Empowering Syrian Refugees Through Dignified Work

Over the last two years, I have been watching the coverage of the Syrian refugee crisis with feelings of deep sorrow and helplessness. The reaction to the crisis and the millions of people trying to escape has been heart wrenching.

When I was approached by The ANKA Cooperative to do strategic storytelling and editing for this social entrepreneurship video, I felt that I finally had the opportunity to get involved in a meaningful way. The ANKA Cooperative empowers Syrian women living in refugee camps by providing them dignified work through the creation of fine carpets and dignified crafts.

 

In the last year, I’ve spent hours looking through footage and photographs of these women and their lives in the workshop. I’ve seen the pride they have in their work, their deep concentration while weaving, and the stories of how their lives have been changed by war.

©2016 The ANKA Cooperative. Neriman is in her early 40s and has six children. Unlike many of her relatives, she made it safely to the Adiyaman refugee camp in Southeastern Turkey. Neriman is college educated, and prior to the war she worked for many years as an accountant. But in the camps, there are no accounting jobs or freelancer websites to apply her trade. Idle time brings painful memories. She jumped at the chance to work at the carpet workshop. It’s a new skill, but she is learning – and just as important, she is earning a fair wage, same as her Turkish counterparts. Her smile shines despite the tragedy she has faced, and she is very grateful to have the chance to work again.

©2016 The ANKA Cooperative. Neriman is in her early 40s and has six children. Unlike many of her relatives, she made it safely to the Adiyaman refugee camp in Southeastern Turkey. Neriman is college educated, and prior to the war she worked for many years as an accountant. But in the camps, there are no accounting jobs or freelancer websites to apply her trade. Idle time brings painful memories. She jumped at the chance to work at the carpet workshop. It’s a new skill, but she is learning – and just as important, she is earning a fair wage, same as her Turkish counterparts. Her smile shines despite the tragedy she has faced, and she is very grateful to have the chance to work again.

While researching stories for the organization, I was struck by Neriman. Prior to the war she was an accountant. She fled to Adiyaman refugee camp in Southeastern Turkey with her six children. Neriman is college educated, but in the camps there are no jobs for someone with her skills. With ANKA’s help she’s learning to weave carpets at the workshop. She is earning a fair wage and has a purpose each day.

I often say that the best stories show how our lives are more alike than different. Anyone of us could have been an accountant working to support our families. Can you imagine? One day you are a regular person going to work and then a civil war in your country becomes one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time. Half the country’s pre-war population – more than 11 million people ­– have been killed or forced to flee their homes. 

The ANKA Cooperative currently employs 250 Syrian refugees. They are teaching women the craft of weaving Turkish rugs and providing ethical income for entire families. Their dream is to expand their mission to other camps in Turkey and help more Syrian women.

The ANKA Cooperative provided me a direct path to help Syrian refugees and they can do the same for you. This week they are starting their first kickstarter campaign in the hopes of building another weaving workshop in a third refugee in Gaziantep, Turkey. If you can buy a rug or give a donation, please do. If you can’t, would you consider sharing this post on your social media so that more people can be aware of this project?  Thanks for helping me share this beautiful mission!

These images and video are owned by The ANKA cooperative & Joseph Terranova. They were not created by Crystaline Randazzo. I managed the strategic storytelling, shoot logistics, and editing of photographs and film for this project.