Refumade – Fashion & Handmade creations helping refugees to rebuild their lives
Description: The organization implementing this initiative is the Dignity Centre Nicosia, managed by the NGO Refugee Support Europe that has as its main goal the rebuilding of lives with dignity. This organization helps refugees, and the communities that harbour them, with much-needed material support. Refugee Support Europe has pioneered an approach where everything they do is driven by respecting the dignity of the refugees they support. And every idea they have is measured by how it can in some way restore or enhance the dignity of the people they help. This approach is called Aid With Dignity. Refugee Support Europe is a volunteer organisation who provides short-term, essential aid with dignity. It is an international community of volunteers, operating to the highest professional standards. The volunteers bring vital enthusiasm and find the organisation’s dignity approach hugely rewarding. Every penny donated and all the volunteer energy is focused on improving the physical and spiritual wellbeing of the people they support.
Category/Topic: Education, Community Development
Target Audience: Migrant people residing in Nicosia (asylum seekers, refugees etc.)
Objectives: The main objectives of the dignity centre is to help people to: 1. FIND EMPLOYMENT • English & Greek language classes every week with qualified local teachers • Computer skills classes • CV development • We shipped in bicycles, repair them and have distributed over 200 to help people get fit and get work 2. EARN AN INCOME • A busy sewing workshop for over 30 men and women to learn new skills and make money from items they produce • We sell those fantastic items through our online shop Refumade • This sits at the heart of the Centre 3. COMBAT HUNGER • When Covid stopped us providing breakfast for 75 people every morning we set up food bank for 200 people 4. RESTORE DIGNITY • Barber service every Friday when 12 men could get their hair cut and our 3 barbers were learning a new trade • Showers and washing machines open every day for people to feel fresh • Monthly hygiene packs for 85 women 5. SPEND TIME WITH OTHERS • A comfortable space to relax, shelter from the weather, and have fun • Organised football tournaments twice a week for 18 keen footballers 6. HELP THE HOST COMMUNITY TOO • We bought what the refugees needed locally, in turn supporting the local economy—and building crucial bridges between local people and the new arrivals
Context/Background: The Refumade activity / Nicosia Dignity Centre primarily aimed to function as a place of support and community among migrants in Nicosia. It offered some purpose. It was a comfort. It was an escape from their crowded and often uncomfortable living conditions.
Key Features/Activities: According to Mr. Paul Hutchings, Co-founder and Chief Executive of Refugee Support Europe who provided us with important input on the Refumade initiative, “The Refumade activity allowed the migrants involved to learn helpful skills and earn some cash to supplement meagre cash reserves. But critically they had a place of support and welcome where they could come and spend time with each other. It offered some purpose. It was a comfort. It was an escape from their crowded and often uncomfortable living conditions. There are few other places where they could spend time. There were a lot of laughs. We often saw women arriving at the Centre downcast, uncertain, demotivated and we saw over a short period of time how they transformed. They looked more confident, more outgoing, happier. We had a programme of regular work hours so people had to book times when they could come and use the machines. And they had times when they were trained on new skills. We had a teacher who was always there to help them improve. Refumade had to stop its operations due to COVID-19; instead, the Dignity Centre Nicosia offers more immediate support to migrants in the local community.”
Outcomes/Results: The key achievements of the Refumade initiative are: Learning how to make an item with a sewing machine was an important skill but other transferable skills were probably more important: – The effort needed to maintain a routine of a regular job in a chaotic personal life – Working together with others in a workplace – Spending time learning and training which wasn’t paid (they only got paid for items that we could sell) – Building confidence in their abilities – Helping people out of a rut and offering some momentum so that they could move from this to the next stage of their life
Impact: The impact primarily focused on the fact that migrants visiting the centre had a place where they could meet each other, engage in creative activities, learn new skills and form a community, a routine that was often like a haven. According to Mr. Paul Hutchings, Co-founder and Chief Executive of Refugee Support Europe , “We often saw women arriving at the Centre downcast, uncertain, demotivated and we saw over a short period of time how they transformed. They looked more confident, more outgoing, happier.”
Challenges Faced: Refumade had to stop its operations due to COVID-19; instead, the Dignity Centre Nicosia offers more immediate support to migrants in the local community. Refumade had a waiting list of people because of limited number of sewing machines and space. When a place became available, they learnt how to do one of simple items and then as skills developed, they began to do the more complex items. We had a quality control system. Each item was labelled with the name of the person that produced it and this gave them significant ownership over their creations. We also bought some ‘Refumade’ labels to go on all the products they made. They had a lot of pride in the brand and if we had left it to them each item would have been much more clearly branded Refumade. There were disputes over time slots, access to machines, quality control so the teacher (an asylum seeker) and the Refumade manager (an Italian employee of Refugee Support) spent a lot of time managing those conflicts. Having consistency in that management structure was very important.
Contact Information: For more info about the initiative, read: https://cyprus-mail.com/2021/08/21/the-sewing-group-helping-refugees-to-rebuild-lives/