Greece currently hosts around 100,000 refugees, primarily from Syria and Afghanistan, who have been affected by the violence and persecution that forced them to leave their homes. They arrived with limited opportunities for work and training, and a lack of adequate resettlement programs in their host countries.
ORT’s International Cooperation (IC) department responds to these kinds of challenges with a range of development programs, community training initiatives and humanitarian aid missions.
In this case, ORT set up a pilot program in Samos, Greece in 2019 for refugee women to provide vocational training in cell phone repair, while also offering psychosocial support:
This program has now been extended to provide extra training and counselling for women. This Spring, 16 sewing machines, along with fabric and other sewing materials, were purchased for the refugee project. They will enable women to use the skills they have developed in the past two years to make items including dresses, bags, baby clothes and Covid masks.
Ten of the machines have been delivered to Irida Women’s Center in Thessaloniki where they will be used by dozens of women to learn sewing skills and improve on existing ability through training provided by the project. Six sewing machines were provided for more isolated refugee women in the town of Kilkis. They will also receive online and in-person sewing skills training.
Online group emotional support sessions also began in April for women refugees in Kilkis, with a Farsi-speaking counsellor contracted by ORT providing a series of six to eight sessions.
These have already helped the women form a supportive group and enabled them to discuss personal issues of concern, as well as providing mutual support and encouragement. Additionally, the women have been able to strategize how best to use the new sewing machines to develop a business strategy.
By request from the Irida Center, online group support sessions are also being planned for the women participating in the sewing program there.
Celeste Angus, Director of World ORT’s International Cooperation (IC) program, said: “The Kilkis women requested sewing lessons, and as one of the women in the project is a skilled and experienced dressmaker, she has agreed to teach the other women.
“She will provide a series of weekly three-hour sewing lessons in her home for the group. The women are looking forward to both the learning and socializing opportunity this training course will provide.”
Illustrated instructions for mask-making were contributed by ORT Mexico, with Arabic translations provided by Drop In The Ocean, a Norwegian NGO active with refugees in Greece.
The sewing activities – supported by the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief (JCDR) – are both recreational and vocational and can generate significant income leading to improved standards of living, health, and education for individuals and families.
World ORT is committed to Tikkun Olam – our shared responsibility to heal the world – and our IC projects strive to provide specialist vocational education to help recipients develop meaningful and self-sufficient futures.