The Power of Art: Bridging Refugees and Local Populations for Social Cohesion - Building Markets

The Power of Art: Bridging Refugees and Local Populations for Social Cohesion

by Nawar Maarri
June 19, 2024

In celebration of World Refugee Day, Building Markets is proud to highlight an initiative that empowers refugees and local individuals through craft training sessions, organized in collaboration with the Şanlıurfa Municipality. These sessions equip participants with skills in basic handicrafts, enabling them to create unique, market-ready products using simple designs and readily available materials.

Women from diverse backgrounds, including those with disabilities, come together to learn and support each other. This environment of mutual encouragement and creativity not only offers a creative outlet but also provides opportunities for economic independence.

One shining example of the impact of this initiative is the story of Dohaa Faraj. After graduating with a degree in Arabic language, Dohaa moved to Turkey with her family, initially intending to visit relatives. However, due to the conflict in Syria, they were unable to return. Stranded in Turkey, Dohaa and her family settled in Şanlıurfa, where she faced significant challenges, particularly with language barriers.

One shining example of the impact of this initiative is the story of Dohaa Faraj. After graduating with a degree in Arabic language, Dohaa moved to Turkey with her family, initially intending to visit relatives. However, due to the conflict in Syria, they were unable to return. Stranded in Turkey, Dohaa and her family settled in Şanlıurfa, where she faced significant challenges, particularly with language barriers.

Determined to build a new life, Dohaa started working in women’s clothing sales. As she mastered Turkish, she began volunteering with numerous NGOs as a translator. Over the next eight years, she developed her skills and transitioned into providing psychological support to children and women. Unfortunately, last year, Dohaa and many of her colleagues lost their jobs due to increasing restrictions on refugees in Türkiye and difficulties in obtaining work permits for NGOs. This made it extremely difficult to find stable employment and restricted their ability to move freely between cities.

Losing her job and experiencing the earthquake left Dohaa feeling lost. Seeking a way to lift her spirits, she joined our craft training sessions. Dohaa discovered a talent for sculpting, creating pieces inspired by local artifacts that reflected Şanlıurfa’s rich heritage. Each participant added their unique touch, resulting in diverse and personal creations.

The process began with an analysis of local museums and archaeological sites to identify iconic and marketable pieces. The trainer guided the women in reproducing these artifacts using simple materials like papier-mâché. For Dohaa, this experience was transformative. She discovered a new passion and skill that she plans to continue developing. With the basic techniques she learned, she aims to sell her creations online, turning her newfound talent into a potential source of income.

Through initiatives like these, Building Markets fosters social cohesion and economic opportunities for refugees and local individuals. Dohaa’s story exemplifies the resilience and potential of refugees when given the chance to thrive. By nurturing creativity and providing practical skills, we can build bridges between communities and create a more inclusive and prosperous society for all.

Our work is made possible through a generous gift of the United States.

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