Today, I am thrilled to introduce to you Dana Kandalaft, a brave female founder of non-profit Tight Knit Syria. Dana and I met four years ago, both speaking on a panel at WEAR, a sustainable fashion conference hosted by Fashion Takes Action. I remember being so enthralled by her story as she carried this fire of passion as she spoke. My wish for you is that through reading her story, she might inspire you to think differently about what is possible. Enjoy!
Meet Dana Kandalaft: Founder of Tight Knit Syria
What is your company's mission?
Our mission at Tight Knit Syria is to help restore livelihoods for women in refugee camps by leveraging their existing skill sets in knitting and embroidery and connecting their beautiful handmade accessories to the world.
What inspired Tight Knit Syria to begin?
Tight Knit Syria began in 2013 after Dana Kandalaft visited a camp for internally displaced persons in Northern Syria. She had done so because she wanted to understand the Syrian humanitarian crisis firsthand and meet the people impacted.
That day, an unexpected frenzy was sparked among a group of girls when one girl in particular named Sebra pointed out Dana’s rainbow-coloured knitted purse and yelled, “Souf! Souf!” (meaning yarn). Since Dana was unfamiliar with this Arabic word, Sebra brought Dana to her tent and showed her a purple knitted dress with a crocheted flower. She had made the dress using donated yarn with the help of her mother and grandmother.
This was when Dana had a lightbulb moment, realizing she could collect donated yarn from home in Canada and try to sell the women’s products in her community.
She wrote up a plan for Tight Knit Syria that very night.
What kind of superpower does your company possess and why should we care?
Tight Knit Syria is all about leveraging the unique superpowers we all have. For our artisans in Lebanon and Northern Syria, a lot of them inherited advanced skill sets in knitting and embroidering from their mothers and grandmothers.
Tight Knit Syria’s superpower is to break down economic barriers to women in refugee camps by collaborating closely with our artisans to introduce their handmade accessories to consumers and business partners around the world.
What are your bestselling products?
The bookmarks! They’re both practical and beautiful. Each one comes in an array of colours and patterns.
They make great gifts, but you'll end up getting one for yourself anyways. On top of that, proceeds from bookmark sales go to support our educational program for our artisans.
What are you working on for 2020?
Our main focus right now is ensuring the safety of our artisans in Lebanon and Northern Syria.
We even started a fundraiser to distribute $200 USD to 10 refugee families to help off-set their expenses in these difficult times.
Unlike Canada and many other countries in the world, refugees in Lebanon are not receiving any government or humanitarian support amidst COVID-19. The women are located in a densely populated refugee camp in Beirut and are now isolating themselves in their tiny apartments.
Without their regular income from TKS work, it’s nearly impossible to cover the high costs of rent, food, electricity, phone connection, medication, and other daily necessities.
We are also excited to be continuing with our educational program, which has now been transferred to online classes as opposed to in-person rooms. Some of our original plans for 2020 have had to change, but we’re adapting, and staying connected with our communities, taking it day by day.
Well, thanks Dana! What an inspiring story, for being a true leader and beacon of light for the refugee women of Syria and Lebanon.
To learn more and meet Dana in person, make sure to catch her on our Instagram Live tomorrow at 3PM!