Who is a refugee?
A refugee is someone forced to leave their home country as a result of war, persecution or political instability. They are often unable to return home or are afraid to do so.
Two-thirds of all refugees worldwide come from just five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia. 
How many refugees are there in the world?
At the end of 2017, there were 25.4 million refugees in the world, the highest number ever seen according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugeed (UNHCR). 85% of refugees are hosted in countries with limited economic opportunities.
What caused the Syrian refugee crisis?
In March 2011, the Syrian government opened fire on a peaceful protest in Deraa. This sparked nationwide anger and led to further demonstrations. An increasing lack of freedom, economic uncertainty and general social unrest ended up erupting into the Syrian civil war which continues to this day.
As a result of nearly a decade of brutal conflict, more than half of Syrians have been displaced  and hundreds of thousands have lost their lives.
What does the refugee journey look like for a Syrian family?
It’s tough to describe the heart-wrenching journey of leaving your home out of fear for your life but for families fleeing the Syrian civil war, the goal is always the same; to reach somewhere safe to live.
The first step for a Syrian refugee is to sell everything they own. Fleeing Syria is expensive as well as dangerous and refugees will need all the funds they can get. Families walk for days, even with small children, to reach the Turkish border, where they hire smugglers to get them onto a boat to Greece.
Smugglers charge exorbitant fees for the boat passage with USD$5,000 per person a normal sum. However this doesn’t guarantee that they will safely make it. The smugglers may steal the boat’s motor or the boat may not reach land safely, resulting in loss of life.
For those who make it, most refugees will arrive or be taken to Lesbos, an island off the coast of Greece. The refugee camps are dangerous, particularly for women and children. As refugees usually arrive without proper identification papers, the long process of registering starts and can take up to three years.
Once they are registered as a refugee, families are then moved to a separate camp like the one in Ritsona where Love Welcomes teaches income generation skills. Most of the people who are part of the Love Welcomes program left Syria more than five years ago and are still living in refugee camps with their children, waiting for permanent placement in a country like Germany.
To understand the difficult decisions which Syrian refugees face along the perilous journey to safety, click here to visit an incredible interactive tool based on real stories from Syrian refugees, which shows how different these dangerous journeys might be.
What skills are the women learning in the camp?
We teach women how to weave items on a loom to sell for income. These include welcome mats and other products. They are also taught how to keep track of inventory and how to manage themselves to produce enough items for sale to financially support their families.
The women are also empowered to make decisions as a group about the designs of the products, the hours they work and the structure of the venture as well as advise on what services the camp most needs and how to use the profits to provide these services such as transportation.
In addition, beneficiaries also can learn English and computer skills for basic bookkeeping.
How does this help Syrian refugees?
Being a refugee can often be a dehumanizing experience. Refugees are given very few rights and have little control over where they live, what job they can get and other basic human rights. It can be an enormously destabilizing experience and loss of confidence and self-esteem are common problems.
Love Welcomes comes alongside people in their time of greatest need to restore dignity and hope. By teaching women how to weave products which are sold through online shopping, Love Welcomes not only provides jobs and incomes but helps to remind people of their value as a person.
The strength of the program lies in building self-reliance in beneficiaries in indirect ways: the routine of going to work, of being able to share about their lives with other women in similar situations, the ability to make financial decisions about their lives, the freedom to create their own designs for mats and learning new skills all help to reestablish confidence and self-esteem.
In addition to the individuals who are employed through the program, the profits from Love Welcomes are used to improve the well-being of the whole camp including providing transportation for trips to the market or legal meetings.
Where do the women go from here?
Currently the women in our program are hoping for permanent residency somewhere in Europe. Once asylum has been granted, the women and their families are eligible for better accommodation, full access to all government services and work outside of the camp.
However it’s a long process and many women in our program have already lived for the last five or more years in refugee camps. For those who are able to leave Greece, they will need to start the process of claiming asylum in their final destination country.
How did Love Welcomes start?
Learn more about our history here.
How is the money from the online shop used?
The income generated from products sold through Love Welcomes online shop is used to:
- Provide a salary for women in the program
- Subsidize transport
All profits are reinvested back into the refugee camp in the form of services such as transportation to help improve the overall experience for Syrian refugees living in the camp.
How can I help?
Spread the word! We’re passionate about helping as many refugees as possible and by selling more products, we are able to expand our program to empower more women and families.
While we are currently not volunteers for the Love Welcome projects in Greece, here are several other ways you can support our work:
- Buy Love Welcomes products and share online or with your family and friends about how shopping online at Love Welcomes supports Syrian refugees
- Host a Love Welcomes house party – contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
- Donate to Love Welcomes or host a fundraising event – contact email@example.com to donate
- Spread the word to retail shops in your area (wholesale application is here)