Helping refugees preserve local crafts

Helping refugees preserve local crafts

Words Vilma Paasivaara

With international Refugee Week, we look at Made 51 an organisation supporting and empowering uprooted craftspeople and makers living in refugee camps all over the world…

What is amazing about craft is how pervasive it is. In every culture, in every corner of the world, there are traditions and techniques for making things. Born out of necessity then perfected over generations and centuries to often resemble complex works of art they are closely tied to the local people and the skills are passed along not through books but through oral knowledge. Many of these crafts are also based on the local rescuers and materials – humans are exceptionally ingenious at extracting everything useful out of their environment.



One of the consequences of the ever-growing displacement of refugees all around the globe is that these traditions and skills are at the risk of disappearing. Today nearly 22.5 million refugees have been displaced either within or outside of their own country. As we celebrate international refugee week it seemed like the perfect time to shed light on an organisation that is fighting to preserve these threaded crafts as well as to empower the skilful women and men who still practice them.



Made51, an organisation initiated by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), launched earlier this year at the Ambiente trade fair in Frankfurt. At the core of their mission is to work with refugees to both help them maintain their local craft skills as well as empower them to take care of their families and communities financially. From Afghanistan to Thailand to Burkina Faso, Made51 has created a network of makers, helped them launch their product lines and most importantly achieve independence in often difficult conditions. The organisation is the main link between the makers, the local enterprises they partner with and the global market – where Made51 states original pieces like these are in high demand.

Though their mission has been off to a great start they are still looking for support in the forms of expertise, partners and retailers who could help push Made 51 to the next level. Most importantly, they also need clients as the only way these artisans can make a living is if their pieces sell. You can find the superb collection here.

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