How I found this gem is a story of how one good thing leads to another. In a recent blog post, I spoke with Afshan Khan about her and her sister, Drakshan’s heartwarming work with women in the Multan region of Pakistan. They do gorgeous embroidery under the brand name Purple Impression, based in Northern California. That conversation led me to another unsung hero, Jeanette who started a non profit organization, Darzah, to support the women and embroidery of Palestine.
When I looked up Darzah’s designs I loved them! They’re basically a mix of leather which Hebron is known for and beautiful handmade embroidery, the knowledge for which is handed down from mother to daughter in the villages of Palestine. So, of course off I went to order a pair of embroidered rose blush Palestinian ballerinas and contacted Janette who is based in Oklahoma for a phone interview. She graciously set a date for the next day. I so appreciate the willingness and openness to talk to strangers and give the gift of one’s precious time!
Janette was a bubbly, frank and charmingly down-to earth voice over the phone as she told me her inspiring and uplifting story. It all started with her gathering donations while doing her real job as a professor at Oklahoma University and taking her students one year to Jerusalem where they donated the money to a school there.
The parents of the students began asking her for jobs, so she started Zeki Learning which produced and sold Palestinian learning materials that were a 100% made in Palestine. They continued to ask for jobs so she founded Darzah. It’s this beautiful joining of north and south in Palestine, as the leather pieces, whether shoes or bags, or bracelets are made in Hebron in the south. And, the embroidery is made by refugees and low income women mainly in Zababdeh, in the north. The level of love and respect that Darzah is known for, is reflected in the way Jeanette operates by the book. She works tirelessly to grow Darzah ethically, including attaining the difficult Fair Trade certification and does so without one cent going into her pocket.
For her, the next step is to train the women in the North of Palestine and to buy old, but still working machines so that they can make the leather shoes and pieces themselves. Here’s a worthy cause if you are looking for one :- ) and while I was browsing through the website I found another.. Tatreez archive. Tatreez, named after an age old form of Palestinian embroidery, is an online platform creating an archive of Palestinian patterns, including the history and context of each. So if you know of one, make sure to send it so that your treasure can be documented and shared. Now that’s my kind of documentation!
Janette is so resourceful and energetic, ma sha Allah! She is basically juggling three jobs with skill, style and grace. I so admire people that I encounter who use their abundant, God Gifted energy to serve others in some powerful and meaningful way. She cleverly applied for the Frontiers MBA program at Notre Dame and was paired with some of the students, one of which is lovely Erin, whom I met as I passed NYC shortly after my talk with Janette to be supported on the business side.
Gracious and gentle Erin enthusiastically shared with me the details of her visit to Darzah in Palestine and how she would love to go again. I was so touched by her care and dedication towards the plight of women of a different world. Blessed are the champions of the weak with compassion and admiration being their drivers.