Never did I think Tight Knit Syria would be where it is today.
I visited an internally displaced persons’ camp (IDP) in Northern Syria in 2013 after going through a period of uncertainty and hopelessness. Growing up, Syria was where I spent my summers with my family, but, in my adulthood, it became the forefront of war and chaos. I was overwhelmed with the news coverage I was seeing in Canada. All of a sudden, I felt paralyzed and disconnected from a place my family calls home.
So in my last year of university, I received the opportunity to visit Southern Turkey and Northern Syria. While there, a vibrant, enthusiastic girl named Sebra spotted my knitted purse and revealed to me the creative passion that she and the women in the camp had for kneedlework. Not only was it clear how I could help (they had run out of yarn), but I also understood how I could get other Canadians involved.
Since then, we’ve grown from a non-profit who donated yarn in their first year to a fully established e-commerce marketplace in which international consumers and retailers can purchase carefully, handcrafted products that showcase Syrian culture and further empower these women.
We’ve also established relationships in 10+ countries; partnered with the UNCHR’s Made51, Artisan & Fox, and Ryerson’s Social Venture Zone; ran training workshops and introduced an educational program to our artisans; created a circular economy around sustainably made goods; and established full control over product design from sourcing fabric to its final stitch.
Tight Knit Syria has proven to me that, when communities come together, hopelessness turns into empowerment, barriers turn into bridges, and the impossible becomes possible.
Thank you for coming on this journey. We can’t wait to see where else we go.
Shatila Collective Co-Founder
Malak was forced to leave Aleppo five years ago with her husband and five children, while pregnant with her youngest daughter who was born in Shatila camp, Lebanon. She met Dana and Alex in 2015 and co-founded the Shatila camp collective. For four years, Malak became the collective’s field manager who inspired, organized and taught advanced needlework to a group of artisans in the living room of her small apartment. In 2019, she moved with her family near our office in Canada and continues to guide and support the artisans long-distance.
Alex den Hond
Alex is based in the Netherlands, but—after living in and extensively travelling the Middle East—part of her heart lies in Lebanon. Upon completing her Masters of Science in International Relations in 2015, she came to Lebanon to do an internship with the United Nations. She met Dana and Malak in Beirut and immediately knew she wanted to become part of the initiative. Alex was an integral part of the establishment of the Shatila camp collective and has since become a dedicated member of the Tight Knit Syria family.
Lara was born in Canada and raised in Syria. She has been working in the fashion industry since 2011 and pursued a Masters in Fashion & Luxury Brand Management in Paris. Since completing her studies, she has focused on working with social enterprises and NGOs relating to women’s empowerment and children’s education in Lebanon and Jordan. She joined the Tight Knit Syria team in 2018 and has been a pillar of the organization ever since.
Michelle is a Canadian documentary filmmaker, creative director and content creator. She earned her Bachelor of Journalism at Ryerson University where she won the HaakSaan Award for Excellence in Online Reporting. Her work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, CBCNews, TVO, Today's Parent, and more. Her first film, Running Home, was a winner at the Evolution! Mallorca International Film Festival. Michelle is dedicated to telling the stories of women and Tight Knit Syria is no exception.
Johayna started as an artisan with the Lebanon collective and now manages production in Shatila camp. She’s originally from Daraa, Syria, and came to the camp with her husband and five children (between the ages of four and 16). Despite the poverty and difficult living conditions, Johayna says she’s gained more confidence in herself and her abilities in Shatila, and now does things she never would have imagined she could do.