Meet the Artisans
LINA OTOM JAK AGOLON
Lina is married with four children. She has great artistic talent. At Kuchinate, she knits carpets and baskets and is responsible for developing new products and arranging and designing the store.
"I have lived in Israel for over 10 years. I live on Mount Zion Boulevard in a two-room apartment. My four children sleep in one room, I live in the living room, and my husband is on the balcony. I arrived at Kuchinate in 2013 and could not work, because in 2011, after southern Sudan declared independence, Israel decided that the Sudanese should return to Sudan by force. My little girl had to have a dental operation, and because I had an appointment for surgery, I received a special note from the Interior Ministry. I never left my apartment without carrying the note in my hand, and because of this note, I was always able to slip by. I never had to go back to Sudan. My husband and children hid in the apartment and my husband only went out to work at night time. My friends who were forced back to Sudan are now in refugee camps in Uganda and Egypt with their children."
Eden came to Israel in 2012 from Eritrea. She is married and mother of 3 children, all of whom were born in Israel. Eden arrived to Kuchinate in 2017 after a serious illness and having undergone a liver transplant.
Before Kuchinate, Eden had never crocheted or had experience in handicrafts. It was only at Kuchinate that she discovered her great talent for handicrafts. As part of her role, Eden held the responsibility for quality control and teaching new women the craft of crocheting. She especially likes working with the women on the quality of the products. She has a strict and precise eye and will not accept a basket that does not meet her high standards
"Because of my health, I was in a difficult situation, and I couldn't do jobs like cleaning. Asylum seekers don't have office jobs, so at that time I was very worried that I wouldn't have a job at all. When I found Kuchinate and the crochet work, I said to myself, here I can do something that I am good at and I can make a living from it”
TAGASTI (TITI) KOFLO
Titi came to Israel in 2010 from Eritrea with her 3-year-old child. Her husband was waiting for them in Israel. Once in Israel, she had 4 more children.
"Their father was a teacher in Eritrea, but in Israel he can only be a cleaner.”
Before Kuchinate, she worked in cleaning. Titi loves her family, and she dreams of leaving Israel to a better country that can give her and her children a good future and jobs.
Yerusalem arrived in Israel in 2010, and has been with Kuchinate since 2019. After spending time as Manager of Shipping & Orders, she became the Director of our Sewing Department.
“It’s a little difficult being a manager. You need to think in a new way. But I’ve always wanted something new, to teach and to learn new things… Now, I teach women how to sew. It makes me proud of myself.”
She lives in Tel Aviv with her six-year-old son. “He’s my life. Whenever I see him, it gives me power.” Yerusalem’s dreams for the future are to learn how to sew everything she can, and to be in a better place for herself and her son.
“All of us have difficult lives. I want people to know that if they help Kuchinate, they’re helping so many women.”
Shewit came to Israel from Eritrea in 2012 and heard about Kuchinate in 2014 after an injury. Shewit fully immersed herself in the world of Kuchinate in 2021 as she loved the environment.
Shewit applies herself fully to her work and her family. At Kuchinate, she loves creating pieces and strives for perfection with every product she creates. While key chains are her most favorite pieces to make, Shewit prides herself on the skills she’s learned through Kuchinate such as managerial, sewing, and crocheting.
Shewit has 2 children who give her immense joy and pride. Her son has taken to sewing and loves coming to Kuchinate with her. Kuchinate has not only given Shewit a job, it has also created a home for her and her children.
BRKTI SOMON YOUHANES
Brkti has been at Kuchinate since 2019 and held the position of managing all upcycled products, including the production processes and quality control. Brkti is married with three children. Her dream is to build a bright future for herself and her children.
“I love kuchinate, it's everything to me. It's our home. We don't have family here, we don’t have a place here. These are my sisters.”
Favor left her native home of Nigeria due to religious conflict. She arrived in Israel in January 2010 on her own. At a young age, Favor developed Polio which has significantly affected her mobility ever since.
“Kuchinate has helped me become independent. Before, I was jobless without an income and I relied on family; but now I earn money every month. I dream that Kuchinate will improve so that we can earn more money and improve our standard of living. I dream of being able to pay to have a whole room to myself in an apartment.”
Marhewit came to Israel 10 years ago from Eritrea. She now manages Kuchinate’s shop on Shabazzi street in Neve Tzedek. “Kuchinate gave me a job. They believed in me and gave me the responsibility to take care of all the things in the Shabazi that are not just for me, but for all the women.”
Kuchinate has also been an important psychosocial resource for Marhewit. “When something difficult happens to me, I can come and open up and talk about it in Kuchinate… It takes a heavy weight off my shoulders.”
She has two daughters, ages 5 and 7. “My daughters always want to come with me to Kuchinate. They see that Kuchinate has done good things for me since I started working here -- maybe that’s why.” She also has a son who is living in Norway with his father. Her dream is to be reunited with her whole family.
Brhena is from Eritrea. She arrived in Israel in December 2011. Brhena traveled through Ethiopia and was there for 2 months, then to Sudan for 1 month, then to Libya where she stayed for 1 year and 6 months. While Brhena was in Libya, her daughter was born. Her husband at the time left them and came to Israel without them.
When her daughter was 1 month and 3 weeks old, the two of them traveled alone to Israel through the Sinai. This part of the journey took 2 months. She described her journey as the hardest thing she has ever been through. “I appreciate being in Israel and working at Kuchinate, it's what’s best,” said Brhena. In 2016, she got remarried here in Israel. Brhena has one other son who is 13 and is still in Eritrea. Her dream in life is to be with him again. Brhena has since given birth to another chid.
Alem came to Israel in 2008. It took her two months. “It was very hard.” Alem remarried after a divorce, but her husband passed away. Alem has 5 children. “I like being in Israel because I can be together with my children in one place.” For the future, Alem wants to learn new techniques with crocheting and continue making baskets to support her family.
Hewan is from Eritrea. She is a single mom who lives in Tel Aviv with her two daughters and one son. At Kuchinate, Hewan teaches crocheting techniques and does preparations in the kitchen. Hewan also teaches different hands-on skills, such as sewing. To her, Kuchinate means a lot. It is an important place for African refugee women because there is help and support, including economic aid. Hewan feels as though all of the women at Kuchinate are like her family members; she loves them and they love her. Hewan’s dream is to one day have a big collective home for African women.
Mebrhit has three children (two girls and a boy). She’s happy being a part of the Kuchinate family as she enjoys the work that she does and she receives finances to pay her bills. Her dream is that one day everyone in the world will be happy and healthy and have a good life, especially her children.
Tsega has been in Israel for almost 8 years. She came alone and fortunately met her husband here.
"In Israel I work as a cleaning lady, but in Eritrea, I was an elementary school teacher as part of my military service for 7 years. I taught biology, science, mathematics and painting to children between the ages of 7 and 16. In Eritrea, I always sewed, knitted and painted, even when I was in the army. With the little money they would give me, I would go and buy materials to create my art. The ASSAF organization referred me to Kuchinate one year ago after having a stomach operation. I have not fully recovered and still feel sick often, but being here at Kuchinate calms me, and the women always support me. My dream is to be healthy and for God to allow me to have a child."
Ejigayehu had three sons who died and a daughter with whom she lost contact. Ejigayehu came to Israel six years ago and spent four of those years in Ramle Prison because she did not have a visa. Ejigayehu works only at Kuchinate. She knits wonderful baskets and teaches others how to knit. The women love and respect her. They call her "Kuchinate's grandmother."
"I came to Israel with a tourist visa and stayed because of a political problem. I was a member of a women's organization, and when the government changed their policies they wanted to put me in jail. In Ramle Prison I was with many Israeli and African women. Most of the Israeli women left because they had a lawyer and family to bail them out, but I did not have any of that. I would watch them all as they were released. It was only me who had no choice but to stay behind. Even to go to the doctor, they would handcuff me and chain my hands and legs. Eventually, Hot Line gave me a lawyer who was able to get me released. Now, I live in a small room in an apartment on Salame Street. The landlord divided it into different rooms. Four men share a room next to me and a woman and her children live in the other room. We all share a bathroom, shower, and kitchen. The apartment smells terrible and there are mice running everywhere. I felt better in jail, as there I had clean toilets and showers and they respected me. My dream is to have a clean home in a country that will accept me. I want to live like a human being.”
Fiori arrived in Israel in 2010 and lives with her husband and two boys in Tel Aviv. She enjoys her time and work at Kuchinate and often participates in our sales. Most of all, she enjoys the traditional coffee ceremonies (bounas). She is also a great cook, and those who are lucky enough to try it really enjoy her food. To Fiori, Kuchinate is a family, a home.
Achbaret is from Eritrea and is a single mother of three children: a 14-year-old boy who remained in Eritrea, and two girls who were born in Israel, aged 7 and a half and 6.
Achbaret has been a member of Kuchinate since 2011. She works in cleaning during the day, and at nights, when her daughters are asleep, she creates wonderful baskets with illustrations of animals and flowers. "I like music and I like to sit and crochet. It calms me."
Achbaret’s baskets were exhibited in some of the best museums in Israel: Holon Design Museum, Haifa Museum of Art and also in various galleries in Israel and abroad, including the Feldman gallery in NYC. The baskets she creates describe her difficult journey in Sinai and her personal story.
Tagra came to Israel in 2009. She is the mother of a 4 and 9 year old. Her life is very hard in Israel alone with two kids. She would like to go someplace else where her kids could have more opportunities.
AAISHA ABDUJABA OSMAN ISHAK
Aaisha is from West Sudan. She came to Israel in 2008 with her husband. Aaisha has four children, 1 boy and 3 girls.
Hadas arrived in Israel in 2011. She has two kids, and yet life for her in Israel is really hard. She has no connection with her family because her husband is from Eritrea and their families don't accept their marriage. She wants to work very hard so that her children will have a good future.
TADELESH GEBRET TEMSGEN
Tadelesh, who is confined to a wheelchair, flew to Israel in 1994. When she wanted to go back she couldn't, because there was a war in her country, and so she was forced to stay here in Israel. Tadelesh doesn't have any family in Israel and life is hard for her.
Natasha came from Ivory Coast to Israel in 2007. She is married and has two kids ages 3 and 10. Natasha wishes to have a bright future with her family in Israel.
Negesti came from Eritrea to Israel in 2010. She is a mother of three. She has a liver disease, and because she doesn’t have insurance, it is very hard for her to fulfill her financial requirement. Negesti wants a good life for her and her family in a place where they may have access to everything they need, including a good education.