Last night, at an event held at Buckingham Palace hosted by LCF Patron, the Countess of Wessex, Professor Helen Storey was announced as Za’atari Refugee Camp’s first Artist in Residence for 2019, reflecting UNHCR and London College of Fashion’s long term commitment in supporting innovative, art and cultural livelihood projects in the camp.
In her role, Helen will evolve her project ‘Dress for our Time,’ which she founded in 2015, allowing her to embed initiatives through direct action on the ground. Over the course of 2019 Helen and her team will continue to find collaborative ways to empower women and girls in camp through nurturing entrepreneurship, creativity and financial independence through the lens of fashion. Helen will be working with the UNHCR project Tiger Girls – These Inspiring Girls Enjoy Reading, which works on empowering refugee girls in the camp through coaching to pursue their education, enhance their creativity and community engagement.
Za’atari Camp in Jordan is the largest refugee camp for Syrian refugees in the Middle East, hosting 80,000 refugees who fled the conflict in Syria. There are 23,000 girls and women (from 12 to 60 years) residing in the camp, representing 29 percent of the total population. Refugees carry with them traditions, skills, culture and knowledge which they long to preserve, enhance and share with the world, which is why this appointment is so important. By working at grassroots level, Helen and her team will promote development, assisting people in their fight to become financially independent in a climate where aid is decreasing rapidly. Providing them with the skills which will empower them to work and support their loved ones is at the heart of these initiatives – and fashion is providing a platform to create positive change. London College of Fashion, UAL believes that advancing women’s rights and building fair livelihoods are the most effective ways to help families re-build their lives after trauma and in post conflict arenas.
Irene Omondi, UNHCR Head of Sub Office Mafraq and Za’atari Camp said:
“UNHCR Jordan, recognise the critical importance of the role that women and girls play in advancing positive change in communities, this year UNHCR is initiating several projects with women and girls to address protection issues in their communities and to develop their leadership and life skills” She also added that “the collaboration with London College of Fashion, UAL will explore every possible way to connect refugee women and girls in Za’atari, in the most efficient and effective means and through innovative projects to enhance their future opportunities.”
Professor Helen Storey said:
Working in equality with the Syrian people who live in Za’atari and the incredible organisations working on ground, has given new purpose to the way in which I work and live my life. In a displaced life, everything changes, it summons the previously unimaginable out of people, forms of courage and creativity I have never witnessed before, we have so much to learn from Za’atari and an ache in me that design must find more creative ways to directly better life is given purpose there.
Za’atari is well known for fostering innovative projects – some are delivered by external organisations and others are delivered, most importantly, by the refugees themselves who demonstrate a high level of resilience in spite of the longevity of the crisis they find themselves in. Through ‘Dress for our Time’ Helen has successfully initiated a number of projects namely, The Beauty Co-Op, Love Coats, and Scent, during 2017 in the camp which have had a positive impact on the refugee women and girls.
Each of the projects being supported by Helen and her team are designed to meet the aspirations of the women and girls in Za’atari and are developed in close consultation with them to ensure that they meet expectations and encourage and further nurture the skills that the women and girls bring with them from their lives in Syria. In her new role Helen and her team will continue to develop these important initiatives whilst also leaving at least 50 percent of their time open to new opportunities as they present themselves, which will allow for a greater level of collaboration and meaningful involvement.