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Hand-crafting Family Survival

Together, Somali refugees and Syrians displaced in Damascus are knitting up their losses. Since the start of this year, 45 women now provide for their families thanks to an ingenious development project that trains them in handicrafts, then helps market their products.

Syrians Razan Abdel Hadi and Ayman Alfandi created the initiative to assuage families’ widespread losses–of homes, jobs, and providers. Many women who suffered these “have no education and are living in shelters,” Hadi explains. “We wanted to do somthing to give the women work and incomes, plus the inner peace that comes when life goes on…We found that crocheting and knitting is the answer.”

Now sponsored by SEBC, the project pays for professional handicrafts organizations to train the women in these skills, plus yarn and magazines to generate designs. Trained women produce shawls, bags, and children’s scarves, hats, vests and boleros. Three knitters also supervise operations and sell the work in bazaars.

For more info – Knitting Facebook page

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Jennifer MacKenzie

Poet, writer and teacher Jennifer MacKenzie grew up on Bloomcrest Dr. in Bloomfield Hills, MI, which inspired her to wonder about places with patterns other than floral. Following her education at Wesleyan University's College of Letters and the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop, she followed a zig-zag course that included a pilgrimage across the top of Spain and a long sojourn in Syria in pursuit of the language of Muhammad al-Maghout and Moudthaffar al-Nawwab. While in Damascus she completed the books of poems "Distant City" and "My Not-My Soldier" (forthcoming from Fence Books) and edited the magazine Syria Today. Her poems and essays can be found in numerous journals including the Kenyon Review online, Guernica, Quarterly West, and Lungfull. She currently lives in New York.

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