Portraits series - Marwa

by Celine Semaan Vernon

“I was in seventh grade and I’d passed the official exams but I knew it was the end of my schooling,” says Marwa. “We are a family of six and my parents want to give a basic education for my other siblings too. So they couldn’t afford to pay my high school fees. That’s why I dropped out of school.”
When Marwa saw ANERA’s vocational education poster in a community center in Beirut’s southern suburb, she says it changed everything and renewed her dream of finishing school. She didn’t hesitate to apply. After Marwa got the scholarship she wanted to enroll in mechanical engineering. “But the supervisor told me this specialty was only open to men, so I chose architectural drawing,” Marwa explains. “Even though architecture was not my first choice, I managed to be the best of my class for all three years!”

She is now at the American University of Science and Technology studying mechatronic engineering.

 

Filed under: anera fashion activism from the ground stories we are home

portrait series - Adnan

by Celine Semaan Vernon

Putting a face on the anonymous 1.14 million crowd of in Lebanon.

In this new series in partnership with ANERA for our We Are Home campaign, we share from the ground stories of Syrian students in ANERA's Education program based in refugee camps in Lebanon. We Are Home helps fund this initiative. Proceeds from our sales will provide desperately needed job skills training for refugees in Lebanon.

Three years ago in Homs, Syria, a stray bullet from a sniper hit Adnan in his spinal cord. It put him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. His family fled the war and moved to Lebanon, where Adnan had several surgeries to keep him alive. 

He started at a public school in northern Lebanon, but the building was not designed for students in wheelchairs. He dropped out.

Last year,Adnan joined ANERA’s program to pursue his education and his dream of becoming an electrical engineer. The courses are held in a friendly space designed to be accessible to the most vulnerable. He also gets reliable care and assistance and transportation to and from class.
"Everything about this program makes me happy," says Adnan.

 

Learn more about our partnership with ANERA and how you can join our cause.

Filed under: anera fashion activism from the ground stories we are home

Dance in time of war

by Celine Semaan Vernon

I am reading a book about Rumi, the poet. When this story landed on my desk from our partners at ANERA, I couldn't help but think about this poem.

 

The Lover is ever drunk with Love.
He is mad,
she is free.
He sings with delight,
she dances with ecstasy.
Caught by our own thoughts,
we worry about everything.
But once we get drunk on that Love
whatever will be, will be.

 

Meet Hussam Khankan. 

There is no doubt that some people master the art of war, but in these little streets of refugee camps, there are some people who master art during wartime, one of these people is Hussam Khankan.

 

 

Hussam loves dancing.

 

Hussam, 14, is a young boy from Holms, Syria. Almost three years ago, he and his family fled to Halba in northern Lebanon, seeking safety from the civil war.

Leaving everything behind, Hussam still remembers schooldays, when he used to feel happy and safe, playing football on the streets with friends who were left behind when his family fled. “On my last day in Homs, I gathered with my friends next to the school yard, we said goodbye and promised to meet again. Then I left,” said Hussam. After coming to Lebanon, his only friend from Syria died in an explosion in Tripoli.

Hussam took part of ANERA’s “Sports For Peace” program, where he is learning Capoeira along with others kids from Halba. 

If you want to see his eyes dazzling ask him what Capoeira is. “It’s a mix of marshal arts, dancing and playing drums. Do you want me to show you some moves?” 

The Capoeira classes gave Hussam a little happiness – space to express himself, his nostalgia, his desire to go back home, his dream of becoming a professional singer and dancer, and to sing for Syria. “Art makes people love each other,” Hussam says.

“When I grow up, I want to become a professional singer. I want to go back to Syria and learn singing and dancing at the art institute in Damascus. But my biggest dream now is just to go back to Homs. Our house was a heaven on earth but now it lies in ruins,” Hussam says.

While playing with kids from Halba, Hussam faces a lot of bullying and racism. “Kids run after me saying, ‘You are Syrian. Go back home!’ I defend myself saying that we are all humans and once we go back home you can come visit and I welcome you with hospitality and kindness,” Hussam declares.

 

...

We are so proud to contribute in the work ANERA is doing by improving lives of refugees in the Middle East. We are so thankful of the support we got in our initiative and cannot thank you enough for contributing and participating with us in this network of empowerment and inspiration. You are a true inspiration.

Filed under: anera dignity fund

Can Fashion & Activism Change the World?

by Celine Semaan Vernon

We believe that Fashion + Activism can facilitate change

It may be a little difficult to imagine that a fashion company was born out of NASA Satellite & Telescope images. It is even maybe even harder to imagine that this same company has a social message. That can raise awareness about Global Climate Change or empowering women in refugee camps. And yet, it is happening and it is making a significant change! What is coming next at Slow Factory is moving forward with our series of partnerships with Humanitarian & Environmental Organisations where we can weave in our work (no pun intended) a solid network and an innovating way to contribute and facilitate change in the world.

Filed under: ANERA dignity fund fashion activism

We are helping ANERA's work

by Celine Semaan Vernon

To Building a school in the West Bank

letter from the school principal, Amal Amr

 

My name is Amal Amr and I run the preschool in Al Majed. It’s a tiny village at the most southern point of the West Bank.

 

Actually I’m a preschool teacher, business manager and principal all at the same time. I’ve been doing this triple role for 23 years.

 

To be honest, it wasn’t what I wanted to do when I graduated from high school. I really wanted to be a painter. Art has always fascinated me. But the college I went to didn’t offer that major so I quit college altogether.

 

Then I was approached by people from a local cooperative from my village to run a preschool. Hmmm, I thought, I like kids, so why not? You know what? It was one of the best decisions I made. It changed my life.

 

The school has helped give me time for my artistic side and also gives me the chance to contribute directly to the youngest members of our community who are literally our future.

 

Every morning, I look forward to seeing my kids. I miss them as soon as we part for the day and think of them often even after they go on to first grade.

 

I have four kids of my own -- three boys aged 19, 15 and 4 and one girl, aged 11. And they were all enrolled in my preschool too. Actually, my youngest boy is here now and he loves having me around.

 

I am so proud when I learn about former students who have grown up and graduated from university because I feel that I had something to do with it.

 

The best feeling ever is when they come to the door of my preschool looking for me to check on how I’m doing.

 

My heart sings and I am more inspired to continue my work.

 

You know, I can’t imagine my village without this preschool. That’s why I have always kept it open even if I had to pay out of my own pocket. You see, the cooperative that helped me create the preschool could not afford to pay for more than a few years.

 

So, I had to manage on my own and often didn’t take a salary so I could pay for repairs and keep the place clean and tidy.

 

It was a dilapidated structure. Everything was falling apart and in bad need of repair. It was as bad as it could get. And, then the landlord recently squeezed us into two small rooms so the children had barely enough space to move around or play.

 

About a year ago, ANERA visited my preschool to evaluate it and see what they could do to help. They said the building was beyond repair.  Then, my dream came true. What ANERA has done has surpassed my wildest imagination. They are building us a brand new preschool, fully equipped and furnished. An entire building from nothing!

 

I still cannot believe it. I pinch myself every day now. Let me tell you, all the children are so excited and anxious to move into this beautiful new space. Education is so so important.

 

The families of Al Majd are grateful. And so am I.  Really.

 

 

The new school.

We are so proud to contribute in the work ANERA is doing, and you too have the opportunity to join forces with us. Together we can make a true difference.

Each scarf you purchase on Slow Factory contributes in the work ANERA does by empowering women in the under-served communities in Middle-East as well as all the women refugees in the region.

 

Filed under: ANERA dignity fund

Dignity Fund x Anera

by Celine Semaan Vernon

We have partnered with ANERA and created the Dignity Fund to support the work of ANERA across the Middle East.

According to the World Heart Federation, heart disease and strokes are the world’s leading cause of death, killing 17.1 million people every year. That is more than cancer, HIV and AIDS and malaria. In honor of World Heart Day, ANERA features the story of two couples in Lebanon in love. The husbands both take heart medicine that ANERA delivers to clinics across Lebanon. 

See more on ANERA

 

 

Filed under: ANERA Dignity

Dignity Campaign

by Celine Semaan Vernon

Slow Factory is proud to present its breakthrough fall campaign, Dignity / Dignité in collaboration with Anera. Launching on October 1st, the campaign will donate a substantial portion of sales from its fall line to the Dignity Kits that will support on-the-ground efforts in the Middle East to improve lives of refugees across the region affected by the various conflicts.

Filed under: anera dignity middle-east refugees