West Berkshire Council

Paula takes Sewing Team to Iraq

A call to action from a West Berkshire Council employee has resulted in a team of volunteers going to Iraq to teach Kurdish refugees to sew.

2017 - Paula Horsfall Sewing Team

Issued on: 5 September 2017

Paula Horsfall, a Business Support Assistant, went to Baharka refugee camp, 15km north of Erbil, at the request of the Bring Hope Humanitarian Foundation last year. She taught female refugees how to sew bags using a beautiful woven fabric called Jajim which is indigenous to Kurdistan and is carefully woven and dyed by hand.  

The Foundation approached Paula because they had heard about an arts and crafts studio called reMADE DXB that she set up with another British expat while living in Dubai for five years prior to joining Children's Services. 

Paula said, "My business partner and I were both 'trailing spouses' who accompanied our husbands when their jobs relocated them to Dubai. We became friends through a mutual love of making and decided to set up a business to share our skills with other expats and to give back to the local community by teaching disadvantaged women a skill which could supplement their family income.  The Kurdish people are wonderfully warm and friendly, and I'm very pleased to be able to help in a small but practical way by teaching women to sew to make a living, and I'm really delighted to be taking a wonderful team of volunteers with me."

She is now set to return to Iraq in October with her team of willing volunteers, all West Berkshire Council employees.

Felicity Harrison, a team leader for West Berkshire Libraries, her 19 year old daughter Isla, who is currently studying at York University, Claire Cook, a Senior Health and Safety Advisor for Schools and Didge Oku, Manager at The Edge in Newbury will all accompany Paul to Iraq

Didge Oku said, "Being a woman in the western world is a true blessing and often we forget how fortunate we are.  The gender gap is still evident but when we compare ourselves to the women of countries such as Iraq, Syria and many African countries it becomes clear how very lucky we are.

I cannot begin to imagine how difficult life has been for many of these women who despite hunger, oppression, war, rape and murder hold families together.

I can't wait to work with them to empower them and give something back for the blessed life I have had."

Paula is now working to identify UK outlets from which to sell the beautiful bags the Kurdish women are creating. She plans to host bag sales to raise funds for Bring Hope Foundation before Christmas where she will donate funds raised from the sale of her own designed and handmade bags.

Find out more about the Bring Hope Humanitarian Foundation.

Contact Paula if you have sewing equipment you would like to donate for the October trip by emailing paula.horsfall@westberks.gov.uk.