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You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Leviticus 19:34

Kuchinate (crochet in Tigrinya) truly fulfills this biblical injunction.

In 2011 two women, Diddy Mymin and Sister Aziza, an Eritrean nun, took this biblical injunction literally. They saw the suffering of the women asylum seekers. Women who escaped from Eritrea, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and other African countries were enduring unspeakable trials and tribulations on their way to freedom. Israel was their only hope; but their fight for survival continues.

Temporary status applies to all infants and children of asylum seekers. While this group protection allows these stateless refugees to remain in Israel until their countries of origin are deemed safe for return, it does not permit them to work nor does it give them access to basic social welfare services offered to officially recognized refugees, citizens and permanent residents. Every 3 months their status must be reviewed. They aspire to someday be reunited with their family and to return home, but that vision remains a distant dream. Many seek a new life in a country like Canada, where there is hope of permanent settlement and acceptance. In the meantime, Kuchinate provides a safe haven, where friendships blossom and pride and dignity are restored.

Kuchinate began with a handful of women making key chains but with the help of art collaborations and volunteers there are today 300 hundred women who have built an inspiring workshop. Kuchinate offers courses in sewing and crocheting. It is a place where one can feel a sense of belonging and accomplishment. As one woman described it: "When I started at Kuchinate I suddenly regained my strength. I've started to believe in myself". The skills learned here are evident in the wonderful assortment of goods on display, which one can find in shops and museums around the country. Perfect gifts for family and friends.

With this renewed belief, these women have turned Kuchinate into a multinational cooperative.

The Kuchinate workshop in South Tel Aviv is a feast for the eye. The blast of colour, the variety of handmade objects, the intricate designs whisk one away from the drab exterior into the pulsating rhythms of faraway Africa. The women are paid by the piece so their remuneration is not dependent on the sale of the item.

From the original key chain idea came a multitude of creative handmade items: baskets, handbags, aprons, book covers, jewelry and much more. There's no end to the originality and creativity found inside these walls.

Yohanna, (not her real name) fleeing her war torn country at 18, was captured by Bedouins in the Sinai desert, violently attacked and held captive until she finally escaped and crossed into Israel. Lacking skills, family and resources, she married another asylum seeker and had a child, but after suffering abuse at the hands of her husband, she left with her child. Living hand to mouth on the streets of South Tel Aviv, she learned about Kuchinate, and finally found a true safe haven where she was welcomed and accepted. Soon, she learned to sew and crochet and before long she was creating beautiful items that would go on the shelves and be sold to customers around the country and around the world. One day, Yohanna had an inspiration: masks!

Colorful, stylish and essential. Her idea turns into a bestseller; it seems that Kuchinate and the Corona virus were a good match. Yohanna soon became a project manager, and using the skills she learned and the money she saved, was able to emigrate to Canada where she has built a successful life for herself and her child.

From the warm, smiling faces that greet you when you enter the workshop it's difficult to imagine the horrors and trials these women experienced on their terrifying flight from their homeland. Instead, what you feel when you step into Kuchinate is strength, fortitude and accomplishment. And above all-- hope.

Interested in a visit?

A visit is an inspirational experience.

Contact Ruth at 052 638 8790 



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Thursday, 18 July 2024

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