The Story of Hekaia

Since 2011 the Syrian Civil War has been responsible for displacing over 6.4 million Syrians, with almost 4 million fleeing to other countries.  Among the almost million that have fled to Turkey were two young women, Marwa Syed Issa and Fatima.  University educated, they volunteered for NGO and aid organizations and participated in the revolution before being forced to leave their homes.  In Turkey, they were fortunate to find opportunities to support themselves, but hundreds of thousands of other women, many from rural areas with poor education were not.  

They met and talked to many women living in horrible conditions. Many were afraid to go out on their own, many were harassed.  One woman they met was living in a cramped apartment with 10 other families, something that is not uncommon. They talked to women who were later sold off as “brides”.  Many lost spouses and children. Those who could find work were being severely underpaid in very terrible conditions.  They and their children went hungry. Together Marwa and Fatima decided to do something to change the story of their fellow refugees.

Hekaia was started as a small project, with only $500.  They started with hand-crafted goods because they are easy to teach, and can be worked on without the use of machinery.  With 10 women, and a couple of hand crafted toy designs that could be made well and sold with enough profit to support them, they began the project.  They started with workshops to teach women how to make specific designs and work on them on their own time.  They provided the material for them, and paid them a living wage upon receipt of the finished products. Those women who participated poured their hearts into their work and the products they made were great. 

Their early impact caught the attention of Watan and the Syrian Business Group, and with their help, Hekaia has expanded their program to support over 100 women today.  What started with themselves and 2 volunteers has now grown to a small management team of 6.  The products expanded from toys to men’s and women’s hand crafted clothing.  Each woman has taken part not only in crafting the goods, but participating in the development of the organization, the products, and the process of getting them to market. 

The women who are part of the Hekaia project not only get a living wage to support themselves, they are part of a community of women who support and strengthen each other.  By working and providing for their families they feel more useful and have a sense of purpose and value.  The simple fact that they can pay their own rent, and have their own space for their families is freeing.  They gain their independence and day by day their lives get a bit better.  The women and children who’ve needed trauma counselling support have been connected with other Watan programs providing direct aid.  

Hekaia means story. Hekaia’s goal over the next 2 years is to continue to expand the program to change the story of over 500 women and their families.  By shopping at Hekaia, you help them achieve that.  

Why shop Hekaia? helps Syrian refugee women in Turkey maintain their dignity and independence by providing them work making unique hand knitted dolls and clothes. 

Hekaia means story. With each item you purchase, you help change the story of a Syrian Women in Turkey. 

  • You aren’t just buying a doll.  You are buying a woman freedom from exploitation. 
  • Knitted crafts that stitch freedom from exploitation. 
  • Help women knit their freedom from exploitation. One stitch at a time.  
  • Every Stitch Helps Free a Syrian Woman From Exploitation. 
  • Every Stitch Helps A Syrian Refugee Free Herself From Exploitation.  Every Purchase Helps You Tell Her Story.  That’s The Sisterhood of Hekaia.  

Thanks to Watan and the Syrian Business Club for making this project happen!


For more information please contact one of the Hekaia Team:

Nabil Orfali
​Phone: 416.471.3338


Sana Kamalmaz
Phone: +966 55 527 3772


Abdulrahman Hamdo 
Phone: +966 54 121 8861


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