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West Berkshire Council volunteers will help Kurdish refugees in Iraqi camp

“I cannot begin to imagine how difficult life has been for many of these women"

Chris Ord

Reporter:

Chris Ord

Contact:

01635 886639

West Berkshire Council volunteers will help Kurdish refugees in Iraqi camp

A TEAM of West Berkshire Council employees will travel to Iraq next month to help teach Kurdish refugees to sew.

The volunteer group responded to a call to action from colleague Paula Horsfall who went to the Baharka refugee camp, 15km north of Erbil, at the request of the Bring Hope Humanitarian Foundation last year. 

There Mrs Horsfall taught female refugees how to sew bags using a hand-woven fabric called Jajim, indigenous to Kurdistan.

And now the business support assistant, who had previously set up her own arts and crafts studio, reMADE DXB, prior to joining the council says she is looking forward to going back to Iraq to once again help teach refugees new skills.

Speaking about the start of her arts and crafts studio, 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 that could supplement their family income.

“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 women to sew to make a living, and I’m really delighted to be taking a wonderful team of volunteers with me.”

Felicity Harrison, a team leader for West Berkshire Libraries, her 19-year-old daughter Isla, who is currently studying at York University, Claire Cook, a senior health and safety adviser for Schools, and Didge Oku, manager at The Edge in Newbury will all accompany Paul to Iraq.

Didge Oku explained why she wanted to volunteer with Mrs Horsfall: “Being a woman in the western world is a true blessing and often we forget how fortunate we are. 

“The gender gap is still evident, but when we compare ourselves to the women of countries such as Iraq, Syria and many African countries, it becomes clear how very lucky we are.

“I cannot begin to imagine how difficult life has been for many of these women who, despite hunger, oppression, war, rape and murder hold families together.

“I can’t wait to work with them to empower them and give something back for the blessed life I have had.”

Mrs Horsfall is now working to identify UK outlets from which to sell the bags created by the Kurdish women.

She plans to host bag sales to raise funds for the Bring Hope Foundation before Christmas where she will donate funds raised from the sale of her own designed and handmade bags.

Find out more about the Bring Hope Humanitarian Foundation by visiting http://bringhope. info/

Contact Paula if you have sewing equipment you would like to donate for the October trip by emailing paula.horsfall@westberks.gov.uk

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