African Refugee Women's Collective: Products made by refugee women
Dr. Diddy Mymin Kahn
Kuchinate Co-Founder & Director
Dr. Diddy Mymin Kahn is originally from South Africa. She is a clinical psychologist and trauma specialist in humanitarian aid and intervention. She has over 27 years of experience working in the UK, Hong Kong, Israel, Sierra Leone, Philippines and Haiti as a psychologist, supervisor, trainer and group facilitator.
"I co-founded Kuchinate in 2011. When I started working with East African asylum seekers who had suffered through horrific experiences in the Sinai, I understood that a traditional Western approach to treating trauma would not suffice and a different approach to rehabilitation was needed. Kuchinate was born from the desire to provide psychological, economic and social empowerment to women who were in a desperate state of survival. I am so proud of our 300 women who face immense challenges each day, and yet find the strength to help themselves and simultaneously positively impact each other and the public. Through growth, strength and resilience, Kuchinate women evolve themselves, as well as empower others to grow.”
Sister Azezet Habtezghi Kidane (known as Sister Aziza)
Sister Aziza is originally from Eritrea, but is now a British citizen and a member of the Comboni Missionary Sisters. Since 2010, she has acted as an advocate, counselor, nurse and spiritual leader for the African refugee community in Israel. She has specifically focused her attention on the enslavement of individuals for sexual exploitation in the Sinai and the torture of asylum seekers. In recognition of her efforts to combat human trafficking, she was honored by the US Department of State in 2012 as a “Hero of Our Time Acting to End Modern Slavery.”
Lina Otom Jak Agolon
Shop & Studio Manager
Lina is married with four children (ages 14, 12, 10 and 8). She has great artistic talent. At Kuchinate, she knits carpets and baskets and is responsible for developing new products and arranging and designing the store.
"I have lived in Israel for over 10 years. I live on Mount Zion Boulevard in a two-room apartment. My four children sleep in one room, I live in the living room, and my husband is on the balcony. I arrived at Kuchinate in 2013 and could not work, because in 2011, after southern Sudan declared independence, Israel decided that the Sudanese should return to Sudan by force. My little girl had to have a dental operation, and because I had an appointment for surgery, I received a special note from the Interior Ministry. I never left my apartment without carrying the note in my hand, and because of this note, I was always able to slip by. I never had to go back to Sudan. My husband and children hid in the apartment and my husband only went out to work at night time. My friends who were forced back to Sudan are now in refugee camps in Uganda and Egypt with their children."
Sister Agnese Elli
Sister Agnese was born in northern Italy, in a village of 6,000 people called Carugo. In 1978 she joined the Order of the Comboni sisters in Rome, where she studied education and pedagogy, and later she was sent to study English in England. In 1990 she was sent to Khartoum, in Sudan, to serve as deputy director of the school. There, during the civil war, she supervised about 1200 children, Christian and Muslim, from first grade to twelfth grade. After 16 years in Sudan and 2 years in Egypt studying Arabic, she was sent back to Rome to work in administration. In 2011 she was sent to the Middle East. First she went to Dubai to work in a school, and then in 2014 to Israel to work with Sister Aziza, among the Bedouins, and at Kuchinate.
Sewing Department Director
Asmeret arrived in Israel in 2011 from Eritrea. Asmeret describes her month-long journey to Israel as difficult and arduous. She is a single mother of two daughters who live with her in Israel.
Asmeret manages the sewing department at Kuchinate; she is responsible for teaching the women how to use sewing machines and to create new products. Asmeret learned to sew at Kuchinate, and now she serves as a teacher for the other women in the collective: "Before I came to Kuchinate, I was afraid to talk and tell what happened to me, now I do not stop talking. Kuchinate gave me a voice."
Asmeret dreams of opening a store like Kuchinate in a new country where she can build a future for herself and her two daughters.
Selam came to Israel from Eritrea in 2011. She lives with her husband and 3 small children. Selam serves as the community manager in Kuchinate, and she takes care of the women's needs. She learned how to read and write in Hebrew all by herself, and her passion is to learn and grow, and one day become a social worker.
“Coming to Israel was hard. We traveled on the road. We had a car accident and I still suffer back problems from it. It’s hard and it affects my life. There’s a lot I can’t do, but thanks to Kuchinate I do something that interests me, social work, and I hope that one day I will be able to study it at the University."
Quality Control Manager
Eden is a mother of 3 kids. She came to Kuchinate a few years ago after having a liver transplant, as she was very sick and couldn't work. In Israel, Eden doesn't have health insurance and she can't afford the expensive treatment she needs. She owes the hospital so much money that she will never be able to pay it off.
At Kuchinate, Eden is in charge of quality control, develops new baskets, and has an extraordinary talent for knitting and all types of crafts.
Head of Marketing, Production & Events
Ruth was born and raised on Kibbutz Revadim, and later went on to study opera at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and the School of Visual Theater.
After her studies, she was involved in the production and management of cultural projects in Israel and New York. After 5 years working as Assistant Curator for Beit Hair City Municipality Museum, Ruth was captivated by Kuchinate's magic and joined the organization after seeing their exhibit at the museum.
"I feel privileged to work at Kuchinate. Here I can connect my two loves, creating beauty, and contributing to society and the community.”
Berahti Somon Youhanas
Berahti is married and has two kids. She started working at Kuchinate in 2019. She manages the production of candles and notebooks, and is in charge of all production processes and quality control.
Jerusalem came from Eritrea to Israel in 2010. She is living in Tel Aviv with her little boy and used to work as a cleaner.
“In Eritrea, I loved doing crafts. My sister and mother taught me how to make baskets when I was young, and my dream is that I will always have work in crafts. I love it. I dream for my child to grow up in a good place. It's very hard in Israel, and I want him to have a future."
Studio Manager and Psychosocial Project Manager
Lindsey is originally from Chicago, Illinois. She has a Bachelor's degree in Gender Studies, with a minor in counselling. More recently, she graduated from Tel Aviv University with a Masters in Social Work: Trauma and Crisis. Both during and after her studies, Lindsey volunteered with Kuchinate. In March 2020, Lindsey joined the Kuchinate team as the Studio Manager and Psychosocial Project Manager.
"When I was studying for my Masters and learned I would be doing my field work at Kuchinate, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to learn more about this population. I immediately fell in love with Kuchinate and the women who are helped there. I decided to focus my Master’s degree on the crises and traumas experienced by the asylum-seeking population, to better understand and help. Kuchinate has awoken a part of my soul, and has become a second home to me: both the physical space and the women who bring the space to life, and have become my family."
Rebecca De Vries
Director of Development
Rebecca is originally from Germany. She studied in Germany, Israel and Jordan and has a Bachelor ‘s degree in Middle Eastern Studies and Israeli History and a Master‘s degree in International Migration.
After completing her degree, Rebecca became the coordinator of a project for refugees in Berlin, worked in inter-religious dialogue and studied trauma therapy and mediation.
Rebecca recently returned to Tel Aviv and joined the Kuchinate team in December 2020.
Production & Quality Control
6 years ago Abrehet came to Israel on her own. She got married and now lives here in Tel Aviv with her husband and one child (age six). She cannot work because her son suffers from severe health issues. She may not have any other family in Israel, but she feels as though the women at Kuchinate are her sisters. She loves to do everything at Kuchinate; cleaning, cooking, chatting. She can crochet at home, but at Kuchinate there is always something to do.
In Eritrea she attended technical school and studied construction. She dreams that she and her family will have a healthy and happy future and a place to come home to.
Director - Psychosocial support services
Michal is a social worker and family therapist. She has her BA in Deaf Education and her MA in Educational Counseling. Michal has had many years of experience in counseling parents, educators, social workers, and care workers. Since 2009, she has been working and volunteering with asylum seekers, including managing a shelter for mothers and children, establishing and managing an educational-therapeutic children's club, and caring for refugee families who are in need of education and social assistance.
Titti came to Israel in 2010 from Eritrea with her 3-year-old child. Her husband was waiting for them in Israel. Once in Israel, she had 4 more children.
Before Kuchinate, she worked in cleaning. Titti loves her family, and she dreams of leaving Israel to a better country that can give her and her children a good future and jobs.
"Their father was a teacher in Eritrea, but in Israel he can only be a cleaner.”
Head of Educational Program
Fetlework Seifu (Fetle) is an Ethiopian born German citizen. For the past 11, years she has been working in various countries based on the German Development Aid work - specifically in the civil Peace Service Program (CPS) which is fully financed by the German government.
Since January 2020, a cooperation between Kuchinate and Agiamondo’s CPS program has been established. In the framework of this cooperation, Fetle started working at Kuchinate in February 2020. In her role as civil peace personnel, she is responsible for the educational program of Kuchinate which aims to strengthen the personal and professional capacities of the asylum seeker staff.