Alsama Studio creates bespoke, hand-made embroidery art. Every item is unique. Each item is a wearable work of art to cherish over a life time.
The studio works to order but has also creates its own collections that include bags, purses and wall-art. We up-cycle fabrics and old clothes that we buy.
It operates from the heart of the Bourj al-Barajneh camp in Beirut and employs currently 15 embroidery artisans.
Fatima Khalifa, herself a Syrian refugee who lives in the Bourj al-Barajneh camp, set up the studio as an independent enterprise at the end of 2019. In March 2020 she joined forces with Alsama.
Fatima’s love for embroidery started when she arrived in the camp after fleeing from war-torn Syria in 2012.
Every stitch helps me to keep my balance despite war and being a refugee.Fatima Khalifa, Director, Alsama Studio
Alsama Studio is run as a social enterprise. It is financially independent from Alsama Project. All the money that the studio makes goes back to the studio and the women.
Most of the women artisans are the sole bread winners of their extended families.
The women’s ages range from 20 to 45. Many of them have received only rudimentary school education. 10% can’t read or write.
Babies can be brought into the work-space.
The studio means hope for me. My husband allows me to come here because he trusts Fatima, I'm earning my own money and I'm meeting new people.Hala Al-Santaly
The Workshop means much more to the women than the chance to earn money. It provides a safe place where they give and receive support. Their homes often consists of one room which they share with children, violent husbands, elderly and sick parents. Rarely are they allowed to go out – unless it is to the Studio. Here they can chat to other women and discuss their problems freely. Moreover, the studio provides weekly yoga classes for the women, and Fatimah hopes to provide literacy and English classes for her artisans soon.
Our society will change when women change. I want to help the women who are working for me to become stronger, psychologically and financially.Fatima Kahlifa, Director, Alsama Studio
Life in Bourj al-Barajneh, like in Shatila, is not cheap. Even though its a refugee camp, the inhabitants have to pay rent, water, electricity, gas, wifi – just like anywhere else. But most refugees can’t find work and therefore have to take on debts.
Here is a breakdown of the monthly living expenses in Bourj al-Barajneh:
Rent: $300-$500 (for 1-2 bedroom tiny flats)
Water/Electricity/Gas : $100 ( nb: the water from the mains is salty, so daily drinking & cooking water needs to be bought separately)
There are no schools for Syrian refugee children in Bourj and the waiting list at the schools outside is long. If parents are lucky enough to get a free place for their children outside the camp, the expenses amount to about $50/per month/per child to cover travel etc.