Rafedin Boutique in Jordan: a unique opportunity for Iraqi girls

Giacomo Pizzi6 March 2020

Rafedín means “Land between two rivers”, or the ancient Mesopotamia embraced by the Tigris and the Euphrates, Iraq today. Rafedín is the land from which the young Iraqi girls who now live as refugees in Amman, Jordan fled. “Rafedín – Made by Iraqi Girls” is a project of hope that has given these young Iraqi women a new life.

According to UNHCR estimates, there are 58,000 Iraqi refugees in Jordan, including around 12,000 Christians. Forced to leave their homeland because of the persecutions of Daesh (ISIS in Iraq), in Jordan, unlike their equally unlucky Palestinian and Syrian brothers, Iraqi exiles cannot obtain refugee status, but only asylum seekers. They cannot work and benefit from subsidies for education and health, for years they have been in a situation of profound precariousness.

Don Mario Cornioli, priest for the Latin Patriarchate of the parish of San Giuseppe in Jabal Amman (Jordan) took care of these families, giving them a safe place and the means to build a future. The Rafedín laboratory is just that: a sewing and tailoring workshop that gives the beneficiaries specific and transversal skills that can be spent in different areas, but also a place to hope again.

The idea, born in 2016 through the meeting between Don Mario, Vincenzo Bellomo (Association pro Terra Sancta) and some Apulian ladies, professional seamstresses, thanks to a project by Association Pro Terra Sancta with the contribution of the Italian Catholic Church has been able to start and grow in a stable way. Since 2018, the year the project started, a textile laboratory equipped with professional machinery, a showroom open to the public and an administrative office have been built in the premises of the parish. The girls received training in fashion, managerial and management courses and an English language course. The number of beneficiaries has increased from 15 to 30 girls.

Maria Paola Crisponi, who followed the whole development of the project for Association Pro Terra Sancta, is very satisfied with the results achieved: “We have given them not only technical skills that they will be able to spend in the future, but some of the lightheartedness that all women in the they would deserve to live. ”

Most of them are between 16 and 18 years old, in Iraq they were young students, but in Jordan they were unable to continue their studies. They are all Penelopies waiting for a better future, Rafedín’s women have sewn not only clothes, but strong ties that have allowed her to overcome very difficult years. In daily work they have found a safe place to spend time in the company of other women, putting their talents to good use and finding a lost serenity. Some of these stories will be told in a documentary that will air on TV2000 on March 8 in the late evening.

“Some of the beneficiaries who were with us at the beginning of the project managed to leave,” says Maria Paola. They obtained a visa to reunite with families in Canada or Australia, countries that welcome them as refugees. “Many of them write to us, thanking us for the opportunity received – continues Maria Paola – and they tell us that the biggest lesson they have learned is self-confidence and a better future”.