Vanya and the Magic of Felt
Vanya is a co-founder of the Rozhdestvo Hristovo Social Center for Disadvantaged Women, as well as the designer of all souvenirs manufactured in the social enterprise at the Center. The workers use mainly wool and the felt technique which has recently become popular. They also manufacture ceramic souvenirs, for which purpose there is a kiln and a potter wheel at the Center.
The social enterprise at Rozhdestvo Hristovo serves as a source of additional income for the disadvantaged women. A part of the earnings is also used for financing the rest of the activities of the Social Center that supports single mothers, socially disadvantaged women, women who are victims of domestic violence, women with mental and physical disabilities and refugee women.
– We give the opportunity to women who are in vulnerable situations to provide themselves income with their own labor – says Vanya.
She also told us that they had been working with wool for more than 10 years, they had learned on their own how to work with it, creating their own methods, models and manner of working. She proudly showed us gorgeous souvenirs, Easter and Christmas decorations, as well as toys. The social enterprise is developing well, they have quite a lot of orders both from Bulgaria and from abroad.
The workshop occupies one floor in the house where the Social Center is located. There is a great number of shelves, piled with wool of various colors, pack-threads, foam rubber and boxes with final products. Apart from the women to whom they help the employees of the Center also get involved in the work on manufacturing the souvenirs usually in the afternoon when there are fewer visitors.
When asked what in her opinion the major problem in the state policy towards disadvantaged women was, Vanya said:
– It’s treating all women in vulnerable situations alike, for example single mothers, without additional criteria which often leads to unfair distribution of donations and social services.
She specified that for example in the centers for temporary family-type accommodation for single mothers there were often women who were actually accompanied by a man but it’s just that they hadn’t formally concluded a marriage. Some of them had earnings and their financial situation was not so difficult, but they used this social service. And others who were really in need were on the streets, which was either due to the lack of information or out of pride.
We asked her whether there was a personal story of a woman with whom they had been working at Rozhdestvo Hristovo, which was particularly moving to her. That got her thinking, probably because there were many of them and she said:
– Yes, the story of Chinar from Iraq. She came to us after she had illegally crossed the border with Turkey with her husband and their two children. The third child was born here. She was a very intelligent woman and we easily found a job for her. She liked it very much here and wanted to stay, but later on by the initiative of her husband they returned to Iraq. However, he was killed there and she remained alone with her children. I often think about her, it must be very hard for her as well as for all single mothers in the Islamic world, especially where there are wars and unrest.