A WEST Berkshire Council employee recently visited Iraq to teach Kurdish women living in Baharka refugee camp how to sew.
Paula Horsfall, a business support assistant, went to the camp, 15 kilometres north of Erbil, at the request of the Bring Hope Humanitarian Foundation.
The foundation approached her because they had heard of reMADE DXB, the arts and crafts studio she had set up with another British expat while living in Dubai for five years, prior to joining the council’s children’s services team.
Mrs Horsfall said, “My business partner and I were both ‘trailing spouses’ who accompanied our husbands when their jobs relocated them to Dubai.
“We became friends through a mutual love of making and decided to set up a business to share our skills with other expats and to give back to the local community by teaching disadvantaged women a skill, which could supplement their family income.”
Within three months of opening, the business was self-sufficient and soon came to the attention of all local media, which resulted in a monthly craft column in Good Housekeeping Middle East as well as regular contributions to other local magazines.
reMADE DXB provided a platform for other artisans to teach their art or craft and activities ranged from dressmaking to silversmithing, screen printing, writing poetry and book binding.
The Middle East is a growing and nurturing hub for makers and designers so the two Brits were invited to organise activations in various shopping malls, including the world famous Dubai Mall.
Mrs Horsfall was also in demand from the media during this period, regularly contributing to programmes on television, local radio and the BBC World Service.
She said, “It was an exciting time and I’m delighted that it led the Bring Hope Foundation to me. The Kurdish people are wonderfully warm and friendly, and I’m very pleased to be able to help in a small, but practical way by teaching them to sew to make a living.”
She added: “The citadel outside Erbil is the oldest continually- inhabited place on our planet.
“There is real heritage and history here, but also unimaginable suffering.
“The Kurds are very proud people who are keen to help themselves.
“They simply need a little support to learn skills that can make them self-sufficient for life.”
Mrs Horsfall is now working to identify UK outlets from which to sell the bags the Kurdish women are creating.
She plans to host a sale of her own designed and handmade bags to raise funds for Bring Hope Foundation before Christmas .
Find out more about the Bring Hope Humanitarian Foundation http://bringhope.info/