Lotus Flower Kurdistan Trip – July 2019

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July was a very important month for us at The Lotus Flower. For the first time, since we started in 2016 we all came together as a team and we also had some very special guests visiting our projects.

Over the past two years we’ve grown exponentially, going from our first centre in one camp, to having three centres and the ability to reach over 7500 women and girls! Not only that, our team has grown too, we’re now 25 strong and work from all corners of the globe to make this magic happen, including Kurdistan, the UK, New York and Berlin! We absolutely could not have got there without your support and the support of some incredibly generous and wonderful people cheering us on, fundraising, and helping to get our message out there, so for that we would like to thank each and every one of you!

So, what did we get up to?

We spent days in all three centres, visited literacy classes, boxing sessions, gave talks and business advice, we listened to the women’s stories, we ran art classes, made a video, we cooked with them, we ate with them, and even opened our first ever Lotus Flower Café!

Joining us on the trip were some incredible supporters running wonderful projects:

Asma Khan – Founder, The Darjeeling Limited

The Lotus Flower café

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Darjeeling Express restaurateur Asma Khan has been proudly supporting The Lotus Flower by raising funds to establish new cafés for women and girl ISIS survivors. The social enterprise cafés are an extension to our existing women and girl centres. Each café will provide conflict survivors with a safe space to meet friends and eat healthy, high-quality food.
 
With a shortage of culturally accepted public spaces for displaced women and girls to gather, as well as a lack of employment opportunities, it is difficult for them to rebuild their communities. Crucially, the camp cafés will be managed and operated by the women themselves. With the initial equipment, structures, capital goods and raw ingredients provided by The Lotus Flower, the cafés will enable skills-building, communication and healing. The women will retain any profits as an income, while furthering their cooking skills and gaining vital business knowledge.

Our café went from this empty tent, to this inviting, social space for the women:

Simon Butler – Founder, Migrate Art

The Lotus Flower art classes

Migrate was born in 2016 from a desire to help those affected by the global migrant crisis.

Since then they have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to help individuals and communities who have been displaced by war through auctioning artwork donated by artists. The Lotus Flower is one of 4 charities they support, and Simon came out to visit our projects to run some art classes for the girls who visit our centres.

Many of the teenagers in the camp seemed to have very little to do and boredom was really apparent. This makes young people extremely vulnerable and open to influences that could lead them to make damaging life decisions.

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We also saw the power that art has as a form of therapy. Migrate Art ran a number of art classes in the camps, and many of the participants chose to draw scenes from their lives that hint towards the extreme violence they have witnessed. This is why we are fundraising to buy the materials to start regular art classes for the young boys and girls in the camps

If you’d like to donate to this project please click here.

Alex Daniels – Film maker and Photographer.

Sharing stories through film

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Alex has had the chance to work on some great projects as a film-maker and photographer, but after hearing about the incredible work we’re doing at Lotus he wanted to do everything  possible to bring it to life on screen.

During the ISIS attacks of 2014-15, many of the women were raped, sold into slavery and violently abused. Thousands lost their homes, their loved ones and even their children. Video is the best way to capture these stories. By using the power of film to shine a spotlight on the Lotus Flower’s inspiring work, we can share with the world the positive impact our centres and our new café is having.

We can’t wait to share his film with you, so stay tuned!

Baroness Helena Kennedy

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Helena Kennedy is one of Britain's most distinguished lawyers. She has spent her professional life giving a voice to those who have least power within the system, championing civil liberties and promoting human rights.

She has used many public platforms – including the House of Lords, to which she was elevated in 1997 – to argue with passion, wit and humanity for social justice. She has also written and broadcast on a wide range of issues, from medical negligence, to terrorism, to the rights of women and children.

Whilst visiting the Lotus Flower centres Helena spoke to the women offering empowering messages of hope and also met with several of the women on a one to one basis to hear their stories. Being such an incredible advocate of women’s rights, we’re very grateful to have Helena’s support and advocacy to continue the work we do.

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Alongside the visits to our centres and strategising for the future, we had some wonderful moments with the centre users from learning to make kubeh (a kind of meat filled dumpling), drawing portraits, celebrating Asma’s birthday, giving impromptu photography workshops, sharing meals and visiting the most holy temple, Lalish.

It’s a trip we’ll never forget!

If you would like to donate to the Lotus Flower please click here: