It all started with an idea for a chair - one that was beautiful, comfortable, and versatile; one that I could cozy up in next to a fire inside or on a mountain top. As I shared my idea, interest in the design grew and friends were asking for a set - or more - of their own. I needed to find a factory, fast.
Why Turkey and the focus on Syrian refugees?
When I was nine, I told my parents I was going to live in the Middle East and work to build peace. From that moment on, my studies and work revolved around getting there. In 2007 I fulfilled on that dream and moved to Aleppo, Syria - not long before the maelstrom of violence began. I volunteered for the UN Relief and Works Agency, taught English, and started an art space in the shadow of the Citadel, in the heart of the Old City, thinking I would spend the next decade there. Life had other plans and I returned stateside in 2009.
In the near decade I’ve been back, my work has centered the marginalized and builds toward inclusive policies and programs designed by, with, and for those they intend to serve. Every project I’ve started, joined, or helped has amplified my commitment to the power of art and design to powerfully transform the way people experience themselves and others in the world.
REFUGE aligns a lifetime of passions into a social enterprise that is committed to making a positive impact in the lives of refugees around the globe through art and design.
Our first product is JAC - and is so much more than Just A Chair.
We are teaming up with a factory in Southern Turkey to provide skills-training and living wage jobs to Syrian refugee women who are on the fringe of society. We are building partnerships with UN Development Program, the local chamber of commerce, and the government of Turkey to prototype alternative pathways to employment and support for documented and undocumented Syrian refugees.
We have plans for multiple products that support people, planet, and profits. Objects that are socially and ethically made. Jobs that are living-wage. Values underpinned by a commitment to leaving the world a little better than when we came into it.
Thank you for joining us on this incredible new journey. This is just the beginning.