A pair of shoes embroidered by an artisan in West Bank
In order to keep any Childs Cup Full in a refugee camp, Janette Habashi thought she must keep the mother employed. Habashi, Associate professor at the University of Oklahoma in the Department of Human Relations, who is Palestinian in origin, could sympathize with a mother when she had to endure the pain of seeing her child(ren) go hungry.
Habashi and a few of her students started Childs Cup Full, or CCF, in 2008. The project grow from training and employing refugee women in Jenin, West Bank, to make handmade childrens toys to now making beautifully designed shoes and jewelery. Some of those handcrafts will be at display for sale this month and next month in Virginia and New York trade shows.
We talk with Habashi about Childs Cup Full.
Goltune: Tell us about Childs Cup Full?
Habashi: I think everyone should have opportunity in life. My connection was working with refugee children and my area of expertise is education. I told myself, Okay. Lets do something with education. With a group of student from the University of Oklahoma – Tulsa, we started Childs Cup Full. But after a while, we realized that we could have a greater impact if we work with the mothers.
Goltune: How come?
Habashi: Children [in refugee camps] are affected by the situation and circumstances at all times. Even if we secured their education, when they go home, theyre going to fear the instability of their household. So you need to make sure that your intervention is going to create stability and sustainability. If you only tackle one dimension, then that means that you have created a deficit. So thats why we change our approach of employing the mothers in order to secure a future for their children. if mothers are employed or they have sufficient income, the children would benefit the most.
Goltune: What is your mission?
Habashi: Well, currently, were looking for opportunities to expand. So were looking at three things at Childs Cup Full. We want to hire more women artisans in the West Bank in order to make beautiful products. Weve been approached by several organizations to help them market their products. So thats an opportunity to expand and employ more women. The other opportunity is were looking for partnership outside the West Bank. Thats why were working with designers in the US and in Britain. Were working to market our products in different fashion shows. Were also working with higher education in England and the US.
Goltune: Tell us more?
Habashi: There was a huge discussion in the beginning. We faced with a question of do we want to create a business or do we want to create a non-profit? So I did my research. The answer for Childs Cup Full was social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneur is different than entrepreneur. In social entrepreneurship, you have a social target. Its not only the profit. You cannot evaluate it only with money, but you have to evaluate it on the socioeconomic impact, So the end profit for us, its not only money. The money should go back to the project to benefit the community and the women and the children.
from right to left are Rasha, Janette, Khariye, Rahaf, Abeer, Shereen
Goltune: What is your biggest challenge?
Habashi: People are traditionally thinking about the Middle East as a war-torn area. the challenge is, we as the Middle Easterners, were shunned to modernize our products. One advantage of Childs Cup Full is that Im here and they are there. So when we go there, for example, we tell them that we are working on opening a market. If we follow this trend, we may be able to capture the market. Let me give you an an example. So the idea of the shoes. I dont know if youve seen the shoes. So the initial reaction of the Palestinians was we cannot do that. They rejected it. We had to convince them that its a good idea because the idea of Palestinian embroidery is unique and it is respected. We told them that the embroidery is something new. Nobody has done it before. We can get people to buy it. Its like the Palestinians doing an art work for the people in mainstream culture. Finally, they said Okay. Well do it.
Were now doing bracelets. Were doing a piece of embroidery and putting it on a piece of leather and were making a bracelet. It looks beautiful. Nobody doing bracelets before, and we got the first shipment yesterday. So thats the advantage of being in the West. You understand what could sell.
Goltune: Any other challenge?
Habashi: Like any other business, you have to think about marketing, then pitching the ideas. You have to do training for the women for certain skills. You have to change the mindset. You have to create this bridge between the two cultures. We need this on time. Theres a lot of things. Every day we learn something new, for instance, how to take a simple photo. For me, it was like, so just take a photo. No, no no. It is not that simple. You have to take the right size. You have to take the landscape, portrait. Im like, that is too much. You learn everything. You learn that every day is something new to learn.
Goltune: Has ever your palestinian nationality been an advantage or disadvantage of what you do?
Habashi: I think anybody could challenge anybody on their identity. But I dont want to make it as a hindrance for me to move forward. So I didnt think about it I know it could create a challenge, but I know that the goal of the organization is humanitarian. And another goal is I want to empower women and children. I want people to buy the product because they are beautiful.
Goltune: What are your dreams?
Habashi: My ultimate dream is to see the whole project to become a sustainable project. I also want to create an educational program for children. My biggest dream is to show the talent of women in the Middle East in big fashion shows. I want to show it not only in the traditional way. I want to make it trendy.