African Refugee Women's Collective: Products made by refugee women
Meron is from Eritrea, a single mother of a 5-year-old girl. "I had a hard life: My father died in Eritrea and at five I left with my mother and younger brother to Sudan," she says. "When my mother passed away, her friend raised us. To this day, my mother comes to me in my dreams."
"When I was 17, I worked in a bakery. And one day on my way to work I was abducted. A dark car, like the one who would pick me up, stopped by me and kidnapped me. It's hard for me to tell what I've been through." At 17 and a half, she entered Israel via Sinai. She has since worked as a cleaner in Eilat, and in homes of Israelis in Tel Aviv. For the past three years she has been in Kuchinate creating beautiful products and working as a leading saleswoman.
Ashok Deng Loal Akowak
Ashok has been living in Israel for over 10 years. She lives with her husband and three children.
"I was a maid at a hotel by the Dead Sea for five years before I became sick and had an operation. I immediately went back to work, but after three years I became ill again and suffered through severe pain. I once fainted in the middle of a work day. My body was swollen and sweaty, and my heart was beating fast. I left the job and did not know what to do. I moved to Tel Aviv with my husband and children to get medical help. At first, living in Tel Aviv was hard because I did not have a job and was very lonely. A neighbor who saw I needed help told me about Kuchinate where I was trained in knitting and began to work. Here, I feel that everyone is like family. This place gives me strength and patience. Here, I am not alone. I am with my sisters.”
Hewan is from Eritrea. She is a single mom who lives in Tel Aviv with her two daughters and one son. At Kuchinate, Hewan teaches crocheting techniques and does preparations in the kitchen. Hewan also teaches different hands-on skills, such as sewing. To her, Kuchinate means a lot. It is an important place for African refugee women because there is help and support, including economic aid. Hewan feels as though all of the women at Kuchinate are like her family members; she loves them and they love her. Hewan’s dream is to one day have a big collective home for African women.
Fiori arrived in Israel in 2010 and lives with her husband and two boys in Tel Aviv. She enjoys her time and work at Kuchinate and often participates in our sales. Most of all, she enjoys the traditional coffee ceremonies (bounas). She is also a great cook, and those who are lucky enough to try it really enjoy her food. To Fiori, Kuchinate is a family, a home.
Favor left her native home of Nigeria due to religious conflict. She arrived in Israel in January 2010 on her own. At a young age, Favor developed Polio which has significantly affected her mobility ever since.
“Kuchinate has helped me become independent. Before, I was jobless without an income and I relied on family; but now I earn money every month. I dream that Kuchinate will improve so that we can earn more money and improve our standard of living. I dream of being able to pay to have a whole room to myself in an apartment.”
Ejigayehu Yarko Balcha
Ejigayehu had three sons who died and a daughter with whom she lost contact. Ejigayehu came to Israel six years ago and spent four of those years in Ramle Prison because she did not have a visa. Ejigayehu works only at Kuchinate. She knits wonderful baskets and teaches others how to knit. The women love and respect her. They call her "Kuchinate's grandmother."
"I came to Israel with a tourist visa and stayed because of a political problem. I was a member of a women's organization, and when the government changed their policies they wanted to put me in jail. In Ramle Prison I was with many Israeli and African women. Most of the Israeli women left because they had a lawyer and family to bail them out, but I did not have any of that. I would watch them all as they were released. It was only me who had no choice but to stay behind. Even to go to the doctor, they would handcuff me and chain my hands and legs. Eventually, Hot Line gave me a lawyer who was able to get me released. Now, I live in a small room in an apartment on Salame Street. The landlord divided it into different rooms. Four men share a room next to me and a woman and her children live in the other room. We all share a bathroom, shower, and kitchen. The apartment smells terrible and there are mice running everywhere. I felt better in jail, as there I had clean toilets and showers and they respected me. My dream is to have a clean home in a country that will accept me. I want to live like a human being.”
Selam came from Eritrea 6 years ago. She has one son who is four and a half years old. At Kuchinate she crochets baskets and teaches visitors crocheting techniques from Africa. Her favorite part of Kuchinate is when new people come and she gets to know them. To her it’s like a second home. She loves having the opportunity to have a bigger family. When her son comes to Kuchinate, he enjoys playing with the other kids. Her dreams are to be healthy, to work hard at Kuchinate, and to make a lot of baskets.
Mabrehet has three children (two girls and a boy). She’s happy being a part of the Kuchinate family as she enjoys the work that she does and she receives finances to pay her bills. Her dream is that one day everyone in the world will be happy and healthy and have a good life, especially her children.
Achbaret is from Eritrea and is a single mother of three children: a 14-year-old boy who remained in Eritrea, and two girls who were born in Israel, aged 7 and a half and 6.
Achbaret has been a member of Kuchinate since 2011. She works in cleaning during the day, and at nights, when her daughters are asleep, she creates wonderful baskets with illustrations of animals and flowers. "I like music and I like to sit and crochet. It calms me."
Achbaret’s baskets were exhibited in some of the best museums in Israel: Holon Design Museum, Haifa Museum of Art and also in various galleries in Israel and abroad, including the Feldman gallery in NYC. The baskets she creates describe her difficult journey in Sinai and her personal story.
Tsega has been in Israel for almost 8 years. She came alone and fortunately met her husband here.
"In Israel I work as a cleaning lady, but in Eritrea, I was an elementary school teacher as part of my military service for 7 years. I taught biology, science, mathematics and painting to children between the ages of 7 and 16. In Eritrea, I always sewed, knitted and painted, even when I was in the army. With the little money they would give me, I would go and buy materials to create my art. The ASSAF organization referred me to Kuchinate one year ago after having a stomach operation. I have not fully recovered and still feel sick often, but being here at Kuchinate calms me, and the women always support me. My dream is to be healthy and for God to allow me to have a child."
Merhawit fled Eritrea and arrived in Israel in 2011 with her two children (ages 8 and 5 and a half). For 2 and a half years she worked as a cleaner in a Tel Aviv hotel, but stopped working once she became pregnant again. In November 2015, she gave birth to her third child. Working at Kuchinate during her pregnancy gave her a way to cover the costs of her basic needs for her and her children.
“There is a God, it will be okay.”
Meheret came to Israel alone on December 4, 2010. Since she arrived, she has been working as a cleaning lady in homes. Before joining Kuchinate, Meheret had seen Kuchinate’s baskets circulating in the community. She noticed that the quality of the baskets was improving and came to join Kuchinate as a place to earn extra money.
“I’m not able to cover the cost of rent, but Kuchinate helps me cover some basic needs which are critical.”
Fanus came to Israel in June 2010 with the purpose to start a new life. Fanus has four children, two of them still live in Eritrea while two are with her in Netanya, Israel. Fanus loves being a part of the Kuchinate community.
“Even when I am sick, I still want to come to work.” Fanus enjoys coming to Kuchinate. Since learning how to crochet baskets, she now has a skill that she can do anywhere.
“I want to have the biggest and brightest future at Kuchinate, I love the support and the help I have received here.”
Brzaf left Eritrea in 2010 to come to Israel. She described the journey as very difficult. It took 18 days, and for most of the trip they were without food. Brzaf currently lives in Tel Aviv with her husband. She enjoys making the baskets at Kuchinate and being a part of the Kuchinate community.
Brzaf’s dream for the future is to have kids and be reunited with her brothers and sisters who are still in Eritrea. Brzaf’s hopes for the future is to support herself and have the ability to buy herself nice things and live a happy life.
Maza Eyasu Mengesha
Maza Eyasu left Eritrea with her family in 2008. Unfortunately, she was the only one who made it to Israel, because her husband and 15-year-old daughter were arrested in Egypt and sent back to Eritrea. Maza Eyasu’s husband later escaped Eritrea without their daughter, and he journeyed to Israel alone. Her daughter is still in Eritrea, living with her grandmother. Now, Maaza Eyasu and her husband are living in Tel Aviv, and have three more daughters (5 months, an 8-year-old, and 4-year-old).
Maaza Eyasu started working at Kuchinate three months ago. Since then, she has made many friends and enjoys crocheting. She wants to learn how to crochet many more things such as rugs and pillows. Maaza Eyasu prays her daughter will come join her in Israel soon.
Zghiaria came to Israel in 2011. The journey was tough because she had to spend three months in the desert.
After Zghiaria arrived in Israel, she met her current husband. At Kuchinate, Zghiaria has developed a passion for crocheting. Zghiaria dreams of learning graphic design and exploring her passion for photography.
Kedes came to Israel in 2011. Her journey took four months, and three were spent in the desert. Kedes is married and has three children (3, 11 and 18 years old). Two of her children are with her in Israel, but her 18-year-old is still in Eritrea. Kedes really likes the women at Kuchinate and especially likes the sense of community.
Abrahit came to Israel in 2012. When Abrahit arrived in Tel Aviv she met her husband, and now they have two children (4 and 1 and half years old) together. Kuchinate has provided a place to work and support her family financially.
“My dream is to have a good life.”
Hadas is from Eritrea. She came to Israel in 2008. She described her journey to Israel as very hard and difficult, and it took her three months. When Hadas arrived in Israel she met her husband. Hadas has three children: one daughter who is still in Eritrea and is 15 years old, and two boys who are here in Tel Aviv aged two and six years old.
Hadas loves it here at Kuchinate. Hadas enjoys making the baskets not only for the financial benefits but also for herself. “I am so happy when I see the product after I finish making it. I hope for the future to be at the highest level at Kuchinate”
Ganet came to Israel in August 2011. She described her journey as very challenging, but her husband was already in Israel, so she was motivated. It took her two months to get to Israel. Ganet has five boys. Her first child is still in Eritrea, and she has four other children with her in Tel Aviv. Ganet enjoys working at Kuchinate, and it’s her only job. “I love working at Kuchinate and creating crochet baskets. In my future I want to learn how to do other kinds of arts, as well.”
Alem came to Israel in 2008. It took her two months. “It was very hard.” Alem remarried after a divorce, but her husband passed away. Alem has 5 children. “I like being in Israel because I can be together with my children in one place.” For the future Alem wants to learn new techniques with crocheting and continue making baskets to support her family.
Ziad came to Israel in March 2010. She described her journey as the hardest thing she has ever done. The journey to Israel took two months. During those two months, she was kidnapped in the Sinai desert and held ransom for 30,000 USD. After three weeks, Ziad and 32 others decided to escape, so by foot she ran away and made it to Israel.
Ziad has two kids. She was married but is now a single mother. For Ziad, and many others, Kuchinate has provided a place she can have financial stability and also make baskets which Ziad really enjoys doing. In the future she wants to stay in Israel and continue working at Kuchinate.
Brehena is from Eritrea. She arrived in Israel in December 2011. Brehena traveled through Ethiopia and was there for 2 months, then to Sudan for 1 month, then to Libya where she stayed for 1 year and 6 months. While Brehena was in Libya, her daughter was born. Her husband at the time left them and came to Israel without them.
When her daughter was 1 month and 3 weeks old, the two of them traveled alone to Israel through the Sinai. This part of the journey took 2 months. She described her journey as the hardest thing she has ever been through. “I appreciate being in Israel and working at Kuchinate, it's what’s best,” said Brehena. In 2016, she got remarried here in Israel. Brehena has one other son who is 13 and is still in Eritrea. Her dream in life is to be with him again. Brehena is currently pregnant with another child.
Aaisha Abdujaba Osman Ishak
Aaisha is from West Sudan. She came to Israel in 2008 with her husband. Aaisha has four children, 1 boy and 3 girls.
Tsade is from Eritrea. She came to Israel in 2012. Tsade is married and has 4 kids: 2 girls and 2 boys. For her future, Tsade she dreams of a safe place for herself and for her kids.
Hadas arrived in Israel in 2011. She has two kids, and yet life for her in Israel is really hard. She has no connection with her family because her husband is from Eritrea and their families don't accept their marriage. She wants to work very hard so that her children will have a good future.
Udase came to Israel in 2011. She is married, but her husband left Israel and went back to Africa. She lives here with her three children. Her situation at home and at work is very hard. She would like to go live somewhere else with her family.
Natasha came from Ivory Coast to Israel in 2007. She is married and has two kids ages 3 and 10. Natasha wishes to have a bright future with her family in Israel.
Tadelesh Gebret Temsgen
Tadlesh, who is confined to a wheelchair, flew to Israel in 1994. When she wanted to go back she couldn't, because there was a war in her country, and so she was forced to stay here in Israel. Tadlesh doesn't have any family in Israel and life is hard for her.
Negesti came from Eritrea to Israel in 2010. She is a mother of three. She has a liver disease, and because she doesn’t have insurance, it is very hard for her to fulfill her financial requirement. Negesti wants a good life for her and her family in a place where they may have access to everything they need, including a good education.
Tagra came to Israel in 2009. She is the mother of a 4 and 9 year old. Her life is very hard in Israel alone with two kids. She would like to go someplace else where her kids could have more opportunities.
Hagoosh travelled alone from Eritrea to Israel in 2011. She is now married and has two children. She wishes that she and her family could get Israeli ID’s, but if Israel doesn't welcome refugees, she wants to go somewhere else with her family. She wants a good place for her kids to grow up.
Berhana came to Israel in 2010. She has one daughter living in Israel and a son still in Eritrea.
Adhanet Feshye has been in Israel for 8 years. She has 4 children. One is still in Eritrea, and three are here. It is hard for her in Israel, and she wants to leave. She hopes for health and peace.