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Embroidery eases the pain for Syrian refugees

Up the stairs in a packed block of flats in Tripoli, Lebanon, dozens of women have gathered in a single room. They sit, heads bowed, stitching beautiful embroidery. Most of these women are Syrian refugees, who have escaped the brutal war in their home country.

Women taking part in embroidery workshops in Lebanon supported by Concern. Credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Concern

But life here is incredibly tough.  As a refugee it is very difficult to get paid work and they are also living with psychological damage caused by years of violence and uncertainty.

Concern runs daily embroidery sessions with the help of local organisation Basmeh and Zeitooneh. It might seem an odd thing to offer people who have almost nothing – but the time women spend here makes a huge difference to their lives.

How does embroidery help Syrian refugees?

Financial support: In Lebanon, 93 per cent of Syrian refugee households live below the national poverty line. The embroidery that the women make is bought by Basmeh and Zeitooneh who sell the products commercially – this gives the women a little bit more money to spend. This helps them feed their families or pay for other essentials such as rent. 

Emotional support: All the women I spoke with explained that the project gives them a safe space where they can be creative. Perhaps most importantly, it helps them escape the reality of their situation for a few hours a week. Amina explained: “I’m a Syrian, I’m depressed and this takes away the stress.”

Peace building: To bring two communities together, the project includes some Lebanese women, who live in poverty themselves. Lebanon is home to more than a million refugees so the craft sessions aim to help people understand each other better and avoid any increase in tensions between the two communities.

New friendships are being made. Ranim, a Lebanese woman said: “I was pessimistic but now I am optimistic. Now I have friends from Syria – before I didn’t.”

It is incredible that some thread, a needle and a safe space can ease even a fraction of the pain these women endure.

You can support women just like Amina by taking part in Stitch for Syria - signing up is quick and easy.

*names have been changed to protect identities