a good good thing

Taban Shoresh and The Lotus Flower

February 17, 2020 Neil Thornton + Jack Ratcliffe Season 1 Episode 14
a good good thing
Taban Shoresh and The Lotus Flower
Show Notes Transcript

Jack and Neil are joined by aid worker, women's rights activist and campaigner Taban Shoresh. Iraqi Kurdish by birth, Taban's family were persecuted under Saddam Hussein's regime. After being imprisoned, Taban, just four years old at the time, alongside her family Taban narrowly escaped a mass live burial and the family eventual arrived in Britain. Fast-forward to adulthood, Taban was working in the city when she decided to leave her promising career to start the Lotus Flower,  a non-profit that supports women and girls impacted by conflict and displacement. Made up local implementers that work at the grassroots level to get right into the heart of the communities, the Lotus Flower has helped countless women and families restart their lives after the devastation of war and conflict. 


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About your hosts


A New Media artist currently undertaking a PhD in virtual reality, Jack is motivated by the positive impact technology can have on our day to day lives both operationally and emotionally. Outside of PhDs and podcasting, Jack is a proud dad to three turtles and an ever-growing number of house plants.  Find Jack at @jacktionman on Instagram and Twitter


A digital content editor by day, Neil is also a men’s lifestyle blogger at whatneildid.com where he covers a range of topics from travel and style to health and mental well-being. You’ll never find him too far from a coffee.   Find Neil at @Whatneildid  on Instagram and Twitter 

Neil:   0:09
Good morning. Good day. Good afternoon or good evening. Depending on where you are listening to this podcast. Welcome to a good good thing. I'm Neil.

Jack:   0:16
Also a good night?

Neil:   0:18
No, because good night is the final. That's what you say when you leave, you don't say it's a Hello.  

Jack:   0:23
God, We've done this before.  

Jack:   0:24
You have done this before, you moron! And I managed to do that without stuttering, and I'm going to do it again.  

Jack:   0:32
Let's just not do this to me.  

Neil:   0:33
Yeah, fine. Welcome to a good, good thing, everyone. I hope you have a good week full of great things. And if you're not well, you're in luck. Because from here on in, Jack, what is this?

Jack:   0:41
It's a good vibes. Only space.

Neil:   0:00
That it is.  

Neil:   0:52
Jack, many times have you watched a charity advert for a charity show and sat there and thought I want to help. I want to do something. And then you thought the exact same thing a year later, when you've seen another one.

Jack:   1:08
I don't want to answer that because I think you make me sound unnecessarily callous.  

Neil:   1:12
I don't think it will, because I think it's something that everyone, all with good intention wants to do. We all want to help and give back. But another time. It is about not knowing how to do that and not knowing how to take steps. That's why I'm really excited for the guest we have today. We're joined in studio by a woman called Taban Shoresh, who is the founder off an incredible organisation called the Lotus Flower that works in conflict zones in northern Iraq. Kurdistan in IDP camps, which is  

Jack:   1:46
internally displaced people.  

Neil:   1:47
That's correct on She's coming in to talk to us about that work, but also how she actually she actively and operationally worked on creating this charity and then how they started affecting change.

Jack:   2:02
It's an inspirational storey on It's a story with inspirational results for many of the people that have been involved with it on doll. So I think for nil Knight, who had the pleasure off having this conversation

Neil:   2:16
I hope you enjoy. Let's get into it to burn  

Neil:   2:23
Hello and welcome to aGood, Good thing. Now we're here to talk about the incredible important work that you do with your organisation. The lotus flower on I think the best place for us to start is to look at how the Lotus Flower came about. So could you tell us a bit more about how you came to start the organisation?

Taban Shoresh:   2:45
Thank you for having me on here first. I don't know where I started had won. I've got because it's very long s so I guess the lotus flower kind of flourished more from personal and professional experience. So I'm a child genocide survivor from Sudan's era on DH. I know what it's like to be displaced. I was in prison at the age of four. We escaped being buried alive. My father was poisoned, ended up in the UK at the age of six is a refugee. And so those personal experiences have always stayed with me. Ended up working in the city, Had a very normal life in the UK on DH In August 2014 I decided to leave everything and go back to northern Iraq. Kurdistan, where Isis had gone into the region. And, I stayed there for 15 months on DH. The situation There was a humanitarian crisis happening on DH. I was very front nine with the work that we're doing. So my first day, I was flying over Isis, delivering aid and rescuing people with the organisation that I work for on DH. We spent 15 months there. They built camps, they built schools. They did hundreds of distributions. I think they reached about 1,000,000 people while I was there, which was phenomenal. And it was very frontline work. And I got to work very closely. I'd say with the Yazidi women and the women that bean raped and sold on the sex slaves. And, when I came back to the UK after 15 months, I could not just go back to what I was doing. So I decided to set up a lotus flower on Guy, actually just registered without knowing how I was going to do anything. I didn't have any money. It was in my living room. I I had no clue. Apart from I knew why I was doing it on. I want to help women and girls. And so for me, actually registering it and making it official forced me to move.  

Neil:   4:36
Why did you decide on The Lotus Flower?  

Taban Shoresh:   4:40
For me, The lotus flower grows and muddy water and Lawson's daily, and that represents women going through struggles and blossoming daily from the straps that they've got. So it shows strength and resilience.

Jack:   4:53
Lots of people have these daydreams about, like, I want to make a positive difference to the world on DH. Then they never actually go ahead and, like, make the change to their life. To be able to do that, they don't follow through. So I guess what I want to ask is, how did you go from just thinking that you know, this was wrong and you could make a difference tow, actually go through and change your entire life and leave your job in the city.

Taban Shoresh:   5:19
I think what stops a lot of people's fear. You know, A lot of people are really scared to step out of their comfort zone. I was working in a well paid job in the city. I had a secure living I had. My mortgage was being paid daily. For me to step out of that comfort zone was a massive step. But actually for me personally, it wasn't. I think I've always had a yearning to wantto do something and give back because of my own personal experience. I never had the opportunity to apply it, so when I went back. Um, it just woke me up and woke something up inside of me. So when I returned back to the UK, there was no fear. There was no fear of failure. I think that's the biggest thing is that you need to recognise that there is no fear of failure. It's actually a learning. So that is ingrained in me. Um, the fact that I'm happy to step out of my comfort zone whenever makes it easier and the fact that I don't see failures, failure to see is a learning and figure out creative solution to a problem and just keep going. Um, I'm a genuine believer that there's a solution for everything in the world. You just need to find it.

Neil:   6:33
And you have three. Is it three centres now in the eye DP camp in northern Iraq? Is that correct?

Taban Shoresh:   6:39
Yes. So we've got three women and girls centres inside, um, camps in northern Iraq, Kurdistan on DH. I'd say each camp has around so one of them has 20,000 1 of them's 15,000 1 of them is 10,000. Ah, There's about 2.6 million people displaced in the region on DH with a recent Syrian conflict. We're expecting more refugees to come from Syria on DH. So in those three centres we've managed to help 10,000 women and girls today and that's just two and 1/2 years of projects running.

Neil:   7:15
And so when it comes to the project. So I know that the kind of core pillars off the lotus flower are built around kind of six areas from the overall 2030 sustainable development goals. Was it a case off After your travels into the region, you realise that they were the most important needs? Or was it that you knew that those were what you needed to help women and girls in that in that these regions?

Taban Shoresh:   7:40
So we work very closely with the women and girls to try and understand what they want. So this comes from a lot of assessment on, I guess, our assessment on the ground. I found that we could be implementing projects endlessly but actually that needed some form of structure and for others to understand. So I kind of see myself as a bridge between two worlds and so bringing the needs from where I'm working on the ground to other parts of the world. I guess using the pillars made it easier for people to understand. Okay, education. So under education, we've got adult literacy, computer, English language and any other educational projects that we want to implement. Under lively herds, we've got Baking Sisters, which is a baking, sharpened, its self sustaining social enterprise. We've got a Lotus Cafe again. That's a social enterprise. We've just launched a women's business incubator where we support micro finance women to start their own businesses inside the camp. Because actually, the need is for now. You know, we noticed that a lot of projects that were happening on the ground, where teaching women to do stuff, but actually just stops there. So we try and close the circle by trying to provide market market linkages or closing that looped and allow them to earn an income.

Neil:   8:55
And I think I actually really love to ask a question on that because I think there's one thing that I'm personally very guilty off, and I think a lot of people are in terms of really understanding what the landscapes are in the in these camps on DH, how those type of industries can happen in terms of like, where do you set up that structure is the kind of commerce done purely within the camp? Or is it done with people outside the camp? Do you build these with other entities that are also there? Or I think it's just how these can economy the economy over the camp? Because I think obviously I'm thinking of someone that is displaced from their home. And then, actually, they've lost access, potentially their banks or their property. So how does that then operate within a camp?

Taban Shoresh:   9:33
So it is varied on, and it depends on the camp. So you have, I'd say, three different types of camps. You've got camps where you've got cabins, you've got camps, we got tense. You've got camps which are makeshift, which means nobody is actually running them. They just make shift by the community. And there's no organising structure there. So the camps the 1st 2 camps with the tents of the cabins, Normally they're set up by an organisation on DH. The government runs it, so you'll have security at the gates. Nobody can come in now without permission. Um, the people inside the camps are free to go as they please. So in terms of documents and things, that's a really relevant point. For example, a lot of people leave or forced to leave without anything apart from the clothes on their backs and that's it. And so I D cards and things like that are really, really important. So in an instance like that, when we come across people, we know that they need a lawyer tto help them develop their idea and get their I d back. So it's connecting them with the right people. You have to collaborate with other organisations. You can't just go in there and set up on your own. You have tto attend cluster meetings to figure out what needs are needed on, you know, overlapping because a lot of organisations do overlap into kind of prevent that you have to collaborate with others to ensure that you're not overlapping. Um, we have bigger international organisations that might not be able to implement the project themselves. So where the local implementing partner and they'll fund the project and we implemented inside, you have to work within the region's laws and work with the government to figure out what's needed so it's always keeping your eyes and ears open and to be up to date with any new changes. Um, so there's a lot that goes into it, but it doesn't make it impossible We have. I'm very, very passionate about collaborating and doing things properly and having proper systems in place and safeguarding due diligence process is where donors would request and so to have those from the start is really, really important because it enables you to do your work properly. I think what I've noticed with some organisations is they just go and do and they don't really think about the rest. But you do have to think about it holistically.

Neil:   11:57
What is the idea of? It's not just the legacy off the organisation, but it's the legacy you create the people helping create for themselves, because is that kind of like a I'm guessing there's no time frame to how long these women and Children are going to be there because you know it will be until any sort of conflict is resolved or there's some sort of like I don't know what the right what I would say repatriation, but that's back in tow. The country the opposite of repatriation relations. Displacement? Yeah, you know,

Taban Shoresh:   12:27
returning people back to their homes. That's a good point. And it's something that we can't predict. So the those that have been displaced have been there since 2014 and we're now in 2019 on DH, the region's or their villages and towns. Some areas are still disputed and some areas have not. Bean reconstructed. The infrastructure is not in the right place. The security might not be in the right place. There's nothing for them to return back to at the moment, although the government is trying to help people move back, it's very difficult, especially in the situation that we're in with the communities that we work in because they were so traumatised by what had happened. It's actually quite hard to instantly go backto way. You've just witness your family members being killed or where you were taken and raped and sold on the sex slaves. It's you know, you have to deal with the human side of the trauma first, and also it's so unpredictable. I mean, I never predicted that we'd be in 2019 and what's happening in Syria with the Kurds now, I never predicted that would have happened. And so now we're facing a possibility of more refugees fleeing into the region so it might increase the humanitarian crisis.

Neil:   13:43
And where do you start with the kind of the planning for that eventuality of additional refugees? Obviously kind of coming on mass too. The camps And where do you even begin toe Start laying out operationally to support that.

Taban Shoresh:   13:57
I think for us, because we've been operating for two and 1/2 years and we've got our processes and systems in place. We're in a better place. What would normally happen, for example? Now I know the U. N is preparing camps in the region. So if those camps are being prepared, I guess our role would be as the first emergency is to prepare kits that they would need, you know, imagine being displaced and forced out. You would just need the bare, basic essential kits. So I think the first couple of months would be providing those essential kids. And with winter coming went winter essential kits. And then once the situation settles down, I'd say we go into what we're normally doing, which is the long sustainability angle of it and trying to support the women and girls to see where we can help them. That mental health. Truman. That's definitely one that we would be supported.

Neil:   14:54
Yeah, that's what I was gonna touch on just then. You know, you've got one of your programme is based around kind of, obviously the mental health and development there. And you work with obviously the camp service users on things like yoga and mindfulness andThat's not just dated a practise that is obviously in dealing with the traumas.

Taban Shoresh:   15:10
Yeah, On boxing.

Neil:   15:12
Yes. Yeah. Jack was saying he was interested in boxing. Boxing sisters?

Jack:   15:16
Yeah, I want to know. So, actually, so this is a humanitarian crisis, but I'd be much it be worser crisis if people like you and organisations like yours didn't actively get involved, which is really wonderful and beautiful thing on. So I wanted to ask some questions about kind of some. Maybe you could tell us some of the experiences of happiness that you've seen that have emanated from your projects. And so maybe one of those is boxing like maybe you could tell us because it sounds quite when you hear about it. You think? OK, why is boxing relevant in this area? So maybe you could tell us something about

Taban Shoresh:   15:53
so boxing goes back a few years. I've actually got no boxing background, but, ah, a few years ago, I went to visit the the force that was created for the Yazidi women to fight. Um, And, I think it was. It was documented by Stacey Dooley. So just before her documentary came out, I went to see the women. I was speaking to the commanders on DH. Actually, what I witnessed there was something pretty phenomenal. The commanders were saying they're free to fight, you know, They're very angry, very traumatised. They've witnessed so much on. We're training them and they're free to fight. But actually, this is a really important form of anger management for that. And it's an out late for releasing those emotions. And so it got me thinking, What can I do with an organisation? I can't promote fighting. I can't promote military. I can't from anything violent, but what can I do that will allow them to release their emotions on DH channel? That trauma on boxing was the first thing that came to my mind and I thought, Right, this is perfect I did some research and managed to find Cathy Brown, who is actually the U. K's first boxing professional boxer on DH. She's also combining boxing with therapy and then also has a new academy but called box ology that trains instructors. So I thought, This is perfect. Not only we implement boxing in the region, but we can train our women to become instructors so we can hire them and the project goes on so it becomes a mental health, but also a lively hoods project as well. So it takes every single box. I was very apprehensive because in that community in my region, boxing for women doesn't really exist. You know, we're quite progressive in terms of we've got female fighters. But boxing was quite different, and I didn't know how it was gonna be accepted by the community. But because it's a safe social space for women, we've had no backlash from anyone. Actually, we slowly started the pilot project and it was so successful, it was unbelievably successful. The women and girls absolutely loved it. We've trained some women to become instructors. I think they've had press coverage all over the world. In every different language thing. It's just being covered everywhere and actually one of our instructors. Hester. I think she's a natural boxer. We would never have found somebody like that. She's so passionate. She's so committed to what she's doing. Um, and she's an orphan. Tow, actually give someone like her. An opportunity to have a passion makes it feel just unbelievably rewarding. I can give you so many success storeys. We have a lot of the women and girls that come in tow. US centres are all traumatised, so the first time they come this severely traumatised. But the more they engage in projects, we find that getting them engage with other women just helps them lift themselves up. Um, I can give you a storey of two storeys. Ah, hey for who is our best performing English student is 54 years old. She's illiterate, doesn't know how to read and write, and Kurdish or Arabic. She refused to learn either of them, she said, It's my dream to learn English, so she started the English course. Actually, she's the best performing students, so that's that's an example of actually allows somebody, despite the situation there, rent to live their dream and then, in terms of opportunities we've got, um, no, that was money for Sorry, I'm getting my names mixed up. Ah, we've got hay for who's a single mum and she's deaf mute. She's got three kids. Two of her kids were taken his Isis soldiers and they were indoctrinated. They were rescued after a few years. Her husband was killed, and when she returned to the camp, her family shunned her because there was what she was seen as a burden. She's deaf mute on a single mom, and so they didn't really accept her in her cabin. So we got her sorted out with a cabin and made sure she was OK. She went to sewing sisters, and then we recently launched our women's business incubator programme, which is where we train them in business skills and then marketing skills, and then give them $1000 to start their own projects and business inside the camp. And I asked her when I went back in July, said, Hey, for what have you started? She went. She kind of pointed at her phone and did a card and it was mobile top up cards. My fool, You're gonna be the richest one of them. Because, um, you, you know, despite being displaced and refugees and you know, it's it's they will have phones, they will have smartphones. Everyone has a smartphone. And so for her to think, actually, everyone's gonna need to top up their phones was just genius.

Jack:   21:01
I want to ask more about these sort of incubator programme. There must be loads of fascinating businesses that emerged that like you wouldn't even think about

Taban Shoresh:   21:11
there are so that project. I think there was a competition that was run across the whole of the Middle East for organisations to submit a project when we submitted that project and it was with Care International on DH. We want across the whole Middle East, because actually business incubators do you happen around the world. But it's the first time it's happened within a camp setting. Um, so we thought, Well, bring it into the camp. These were gonna be here for years. Let's get them skilled up. And even if they leave and that's the important thing about what we do is even if they leave they take their skills with them so they can start again wherever they move to. So in terms of what projects, So we've got pay for who's doing mobile phones? We've got one who set up a hairdresser. We've got one who set up a like a small restaurant stroke, shawarma place or falafel place. One Who's got supermarket? One who's got close shop. Oh, there's so many. I can't remember all of them. But there's so many and they're so creative because you look at them and think, Why didn't I think of that? It's one of those things we use. It's so simple, but it's it's so needed within the camps, and they're the ones that know what's needed so they get to choose their projects.

Neil:   22:27
One thing that just made me think off when you were saying about the woman who was kind of Sean from her family. After coming back in terms of these projects in incubators that you're setting up, do you have like, um, is there a balance that you have to create in terms of kind of the local cultures or people's cultures on, then the activities that they're doing? Because these maybe actually opportunities that back home before conflict and before displacement that they would have actually never potentially had. How do you then with them? One either empower them to think that they can do this or that they may not have any reins attached to them. Now, how do you balance that with someone's kind of like upbringing and kind of cultural different?

Taban Shoresh:   23:09
So for May I think my cultural insight has helped. Massively. I've been brought up here and I had a very liberal life, but at the same time, I know the cultural restrictions and sensitivities back home, and having that insight has been crucial because I'm not going in there to go right and would change everything. And I'm gonna empower you all instantly because that's not how it works. You have to kind of work with the culture. I think the first thing that we did was gain trust amongst the community. And when I say community, I mean, you know, the men have found the men, the families, all of them, and actually I noticed that in the camps there's nowhere for women and girls to go there cooped up in their tents or cabins. the men are free to leave the camp and go, or they've got restaurants and cafes made especially for men. The women that go there And so I thought, OK, well, I'll just create space for women and that's not going to be That's not gonna be contested by anyone because it's the space for women. And actually that concept has just allowed it to flourish, and it's allowed it Teo, for the community to trust what we're doing. And so when they say we're going to the centre, nobody objects. It's actually open more doors. And also, I think, you know, most of the women that we work with are from rule rule areas, so they've never had access. That's why our adult literacy project is always oversubscribed. Because most of the women have never been to school, they've never had the opportunity to pick up a pen. So for it to be in a safe setting amongst other women who've got same experiences, they don't feel isolated cause everyone else is in the same boat, then it just makes it a lot easier. So it's having that understanding and going okay, this is gonna work, but also working with them. So we asked them before we start project. We asked them What would you like? For example, they're all waiting for her dressing at the moment. So I've got a celebrity hairstylist from here. The UK who's going to go back and train them to do her dressing properly on DH? They're all asking for it. So they will come to us and say, Can you help us implement this project? And we try and figure out how

Jack:   25:23
brilliant you just gonna chat? OK, going. You're like, I want to question

Neil:   25:30
I sparking a 1,000,000 dignity. I'm loving it.

Jack:   25:33
No, that's That's a cool and interesting that they're able and you know what? Nice that they're able tto feel that they trust you to such a degree that they can come to you with their ideas and you're in a position to be able to like really help actualise them. That such amazing thing,

Taban Shoresh:   25:48
Yeah, it's it's very rewarding. I think what's different about us is we're very connected with the women, um, staff on the ground. No, them all really, really well. And actually all our staff on the ground are all local, so we might have a few core staff from the city, but everyone else has actually hired from within the camps of its You're hiring from within the community. So that's even more trust on Daryl. Passionate. And so you can see that on once. It's like it's like a family.

Jack:   26:22
Yeah, I think kind of for me. What in this connects with other storeys that we've heard in other episodes that we've done and actually just another conversations is Ah, the most powerful thing that I think that your work does is that it's no, it's not the Saviour complex of just like his the Band Aid, because we can fund his or food or here's your clothing. It is actually setting up the foundation for self sufficiency, which is always the answer like you know, is I actually made me think of, you know, I was thinking about in terms of like the White House on. The women are there in the idea that they know they would love to return home. There's no intent that no one wants toe go and live somewhere else. Everyone should have a home. It reminds me of when I read Malala Yousaf sized book on at the end, considering everything she went through her dream is to go back to the Swat Valley because it is the most beautiful place she's ever known on DH. By doing the work that you do, that's the start of that becoming a reality. Just giving money to put a Band Aid over something doesn't allow someone to then go home because they have not been given the tools to fix it. And I just said, Yeah, I think that it kind of reminded me of S O. I think one of your most recent livelihood projects is the farming sisters on, obviously with the Yazidi women and it being part of their culture and their family has worked for generations, it was the skills of their The want is there we build on this and then you feed. You confuse yourself like that doesn't need someone sending money to send shipments of food. If you're providing the culture for it, Andi, I mean, could you tell us a little more as it's a more recent one with firing sisters? Kind of. What was the implement? Is there a particular Harriet you're focusing on or is it kind of house up. The of the women responded to that.

Taban Shoresh:   27:59
So farming sisters came out of one of our recent centres that we've just opened on DH. It's quiet in terms of space is quite a large space on the Lotus Cafe is there? So the lotus cafes completely run by women. So whatever money they make, it goes back to them on DH. We've got land in that air and we thought, Well, you naturally know how to You know better than me to grow vegetables and fruit. Why don't you make use of the land and start growing the stuff that you can use in a cafe? So that's that's That's where it came from, but it's been really popular. We'll see how it spans out over the year to see if we can expand it into other regions. Um, I think you definitely have to look at what skills are already there on what you can enhance on DH. Also what skills you can enhance for when they do return to their homes. Everyone wants to go back home at the moment. It might not be a reality for some, but one day it will be, and also the women that are taken abroad. So the wound that being relocated abroad we stay in touch with him because we know how difficult it is for reintegration and most regions take them. But they don't have a re integration programme and so they feel very isolated wherever they are. So if we know people organisations in that region will connect them and make sure that they're looked after in that region on DH will still stay in touch with them to make sure that they're okay.

Jack:   29:33
I want to fill in my imagination about some of these projects a bit more So, for example, the farming Sisters, um, you've got all these talented women who work in a cafe and also know how to grow things. What did you have to provide them to be able to help them kind of get hurt, step where they could grow things.

Taban Shoresh:   29:52
So this is where we kind of come in in terms of our resources. Funding training's over a lot off the funding that we have gets spent on equipment for them get spent on the space. If it needs any restoration, we might provide, like, three months of salary to get them to a point where eventually they can get salary full time for themselves. Um, if they need trainers and we spend money on actually getting trainers to train them properly. So the women in Thie Cafe, um, they don't know how to cook, but we still get a trainer in to train them on how to cook safely for large numbers of people. Um, and all the equipment that was bought to sewing sisters, for example, is another project that was our first ever project. And there we train them for three months. So we pay for the trainer the space, The electrics like things we don't think about like electricity, because you have a limited amount of electricity in the camps. And so we have to get a generator in and pay for the fuel and so on. And so the sewing sisters, once they were all trained after three months, we bought market like contracts from local regions into the camp for them to start sewing. So at that point, we just gave them the space to you for free on DH. Any income that was raised from the contracts, they were split amongst how many women that were actually on the product. So yeah,

Jack:   31:20
I do have a question about the cafe because I think food is really good way for people to visualise things writes. How have you been able to go to this cafe yet? Have you been able to?

Taban Shoresh:   31:29
Yeah. So for the cafe we went in July, and the cafe's actually being supported by asthma. Khan, she's ah, chef. She's on Chef's table At the moment on, she came out with us to do the opening of the cafe in July. So we went out on DH on the opening day. The women cooked us lots of food, and it was amazing, actually, to see it working. Sadly, it was a month later. The weather was really, really bad and blew our tent off. So but thankfully, we were donated a new 10 and it's back to normal. You see that? These are the things that you have to kind of considering the camp context. Um,

Jack:   32:10
yeah, like not just electricity, but the actual you know, fabric of the building's literal fabric of the buildings.  

Taban Shoresh:   32:22
You can go and eat there one day

Neil:   32:23
As I was actually spending time reading through, like the different pillars knee and the projects within them. I was just kind of like I need to do this. Like what? Like expertise Do I have like, I really want? You know, I think it's kind of that's it is, I think, people to your point earlier about the being fear is actually sometimes it's like you don't have to set up a project, but you're an expert in that field, so why not offer that services? You know, some of the volunteering that I do within London is is kind of based on those those areas, like I've done volunteering. We have helped talk creative writing and marketing because that's my my world, and night is something that I can offer. And it's the skills that that someone else can then take to either one just enrich themselves or they can take and actually then potentially on income from

Taban Shoresh:   33:06
it. That's a That's a great example, because actually, because we're so small on our funding is limited. We can't afford to send out any volunteers or cover their expenses or do anything like that. But we had somebody contact us last year Um Annalise And she's a filmmaker and photographer and she was going to the region and she want to volunteer for an organisation. And I just said, Well, you can volunteer with us, but we can't cover any of your costs. And then we started talking, And then I said you could do a Storytelling Sisters project, which is basically teaching the girls how to do photography. And then we can use those girls to do art photography on the ground. Um, she fund raise for it. She covered all the expenses, completely, went all out. It was absolutely amazing, not only just to fund raise for the project, she fund raised for her own expenses everything and then actually created a training programme for the girls train them up. They had an exhibition which went amazingly well, which might end up touring as well. So that's a great example of you can start an initiative as long a CZ you've got the backing took supported.

Jack:   34:18
I think a lot of people won't even think about like contacting organisations on the ground there like they would wantto know they want to help. But they and you would be totally open to people approaching you.

Taban Shoresh:   34:28
Yeah, as long as it's the right people. We have to do your due diligence

Neil:   34:35
as I say something. Then it just run straight out of my head. But yeah, I suppose it's that pointed again. You know, when people are trying to help, it is they have that initial fear. But then it is also just figuring out the right places to go, because I think obviously and quite rightly, because at the end of the day, no one knows the work that he did better than the people running the organisation. So first and foremost is, you know, donations and fundraising, which will go in for a plug in in a minute. When we were right, we're wrapping up, you know, that is always going to be really important. But then people need to realise it is. Then it's taking that step beyond that and being like, Okay, I may not have this or I can donate my own money for my own expenses because I can then provide you this, which could then potentially beam or more fruitful was definitely think it's something that people need to be aware of that they have more to give than actually just their money sometimes. But the money is important and people should donate. Yeah, but I mean, I suppose, kind of a zoo next Asia. That is kind of what is what kind of next projects that coming up for you, or what is what is next for Lotus Flower? What? Your hopes for it?

Taban Shoresh:   35:37
Well, there are 70 million people displaced around the world, half the more women and girls. I think there's a need for women and girls scented like we've been implementing in the camps that we are in at the moment, everywhere where there's a camp. We've been asked to go into Cox Bazaar in Bangladesh. We've been asked to go to other places. Thie. Anything that limits us is funding. We're a very new small organisation, and so the funding is crucial to get us to other places. I'd love that kind of space everywhere, where there are vulnerable women and girls because it's so desperately needed. It's it's a safe haven in the community hub for them, and it gives them back piece of their identity day by day. And I think that's really important when you've had everything taken away from you. You literally had your identity taken away. And there's a danger of just being stop in in that mindset and in that area. And what we try and do is make them realise that we recognise that you're in a really bad place. But while you're here, you can do these things that could help you and help improve your life. And you never know where it might end up. So is triggering hope. Um, so I'd like a centre anywhere with his camp around the world. So if there are any donors out there that would help make that happen, feel free to contact me.

Neil:   37:06
So where can people contact you? Or donate to notice that

Taban Shoresh:   37:11
you can go on the website so www w w w dot the lotus louder or everything's on the website. You can contact us through there or donate through there,

Neil:   37:22
and the fire is also on social media as well. Is it that is at the lotus flower?

Taban Shoresh:   37:27
It's at the Lotus F because flowers

Neil:   37:32
through difficulty, isn't it? They should don't need that too, right?

Neil:   37:38
You should see nice try to come up with a name for this podcast and trying to find social media handles for it across everything's

Taban Shoresh:   37:43
It's hard.

Neil:   37:44
I appreciate that struggle was Well, yeah, amazing. Well, thank you so much for your time. It is being great, too. Get to tak to you. And also just learned more about the incredible work you're doing. And I kind of I really look forward to seeing what's next and where we can help anyway. Any step along that,

Jack:   38:02
Yeah, Thank you so much That was on. Also, your work is like, I don't want to say this because it won't come to sick of frantic on the microphone. But your work is so cool.

Taban Shoresh:   38:10
Thank you.

Jack:   38:12
What a great thing to do What a wonderful  

Neil:   38:15
it is. It is that the thing that I was staying in that Beckett's providing the tools like, I think there's such a Not that it's it's not a misjudged, but sometimes a misplaced sympathy off saying, you know Oh, you poor person like your situation. Here's some money or like I've done my bit. And actually, it's just like, Well, you know, it's not that like, you know you speak too. I'm sure if you speak toe many of these women and girls and the men that are there as well that, yes, this is happening. So if you could help me with the tools, I'll get the job done and that everyone is more than capable and more than willing. And I think that's just the easiest thing that people forget. And that's what I think kind of more more than what I read. And with this case in particular as well. I think one thing where people can struggle is just the complexity of the issue. Because, you know, I spent time. I was saying to Jack like I was reading up about kind of from your Storey then 2014 and then the current issues since U s support of Syria on DH. Even for me, I was like or my head is hitting saturation point because I was like, there was this faction in this faction and this acronym and I was like, Well, we heard on which ones there's. And then Turkey thinks that this is this, and

Taban Shoresh:   39:28
why break

Neil:   39:29
it is Yeah, it is quite incredible. I think that's where people then this time I mean my personal thing is box. If anyone doesn't watch box on YouTube. They're so good at explaining any of this really? Well, yeah, but it was it was trying to find. And I think I read of BBC article where it was like what's happening in 100 is on one page, but they do the article 100 words straight into the same article. 300 words in the same article 2000 words was the genius way of doing it. So you can either do it depending on your time, but also on simplicity and complexity as you go forward. So I read all of them in succession so that I could like Bill done layer or

Taban Shoresh:   40:05
probably more knowledge.

Neil:   40:07
But it is like, you know, complex. Yeah, I think I was talking Teo friend, that was with on the weekend and we were wondering bitch museum and we were looking at I think we're reading a sign about how the partitioning off India into Western Pakistan and in East Pakistan becoming Bangladesh. And she was like, I had absolutely no idea that Bangladesh used to be East Pakistan, and that was a thing. And then I was saying to her that even for me. I hadn't realised that it was like U K in France that was end of Ottoman Empire and then create Syria around Iraq and Turkey. Oh, that's

Taban Shoresh:   40:40
That's a really important point because as you go into new regions, you have to understand the political complexities like we can't where non political, you know, we're completely mutual on every ground. But that doesn't mean that you you should understand. You have to understand that you have to understand each area. What, how it's gonna impact your work on what, what could potentially cause more conflict or who you shouldn't be speaking to you or you should speak like it's It's really, really, really important to kind of understand the political context. I think that's why we've been able to do. What we do is well is because we've understood not only the cultural but the political context of the region as well.

Jack:   41:24
I have a pickup question because I know you do something about journalism with the girls. So I just wanted to ask you about So I'll rephrase that as a proper question telling sister that

Taban Shoresh:   41:37
that the Genesis project,

Jack:   41:39
Yes, I also justice for photojournalism. Yeah, OK, then I won't ask why. Because I thought I thought maybe it was a separate type of journalism, but

Taban Shoresh:   41:50
I know we did. We did, Have we? We know. Hold on. We had a project with a group of women, and it was a mixture between Christians, Yazidis and women in the camps. Like it was also an integration project. Where? Go ask a question.

Neil:   42:05
I was quite liking. I was like, This is gonna sound quite nice. This is

Taban Shoresh:   42:08
we've got We've got so many projects, I lose.  

Neil:   42:11
Well, that was it. I mean, reading through your website for lights of research has no hold on. Hold on, hold on.  

Jack:   42:15
Which You know, when looking through your website, I was like, how we can get this in a podcast? Yeah, too much. You could be less good work podcast about, um No. So I saw that you do work with journalism in the camps house. Kind of curious what kind of form that took and how, like the effect it has. Because obviously, journalism has a great empowerment aspect.

Taban Shoresh:   42:38
We ran a project and that was actually part of ah integration project. So it was quite peace building and We picked women from different communities that you had Yazidi women. He had Liz limb women. You had Christian women and you had some from the company had some from host families. People forget that once you got displacement, you've also got host families of this. There's less pressure on the host families because services are being pressured. And so sometimes you get hostility between the two. And so for us it was really important to try and engage them together and help them share each other's storeys and see it from different perspectives. And so that's why the journals and project was brilliant to work with on DH, they covered. They created a magazine, local magazine. And so they interviewed each other, different people, people in the camps on DH. It was a great way of giving them their power by sharing other people's storeys. Um, yeah, I think that was a really, really successful project. We should implement another one.

Neil:   43:41
Yeah, doing almost synapses just firing, being like So you know, where did that end up like, if that's something I could help create a blogger for and actually we could feed those storeys into a digital platform and wait can help with that.

Jack:   43:58
Maybe they could have a podcast. He's a great website Designer 

Taban Shoresh:   44:10
How we kind of work is figuring out where people skill set so and how we logistically make it work. Um, I think my name is definitely potential in that we I need a great way of figuring out how I there were so many storeys. I mean, the amount of storeys that we have in terms of the women and girls are a lot, and I think it's it's more. How do I start giving them back the power of being able to write those storeys or do their storeys? I think for us it's resource and capacity. We're so strained on resource and capacity that there's only so much that we can do. But we have access to so much that we can do and potential things that we can create. Um, yeah, maybe a journalism stroke. The photojournalists helping. I mean, the photo. There were some really talented photographers. Unbelievable. That came out the storey with pictures. Um, the only thing we need to figure out is practical things like translation. Yeah, but yeah,

Neil:   45:20
Yeah. Now you're thinking like it turned that into a block. That block becomes a book. That book raises money, right? Great publishing deal. I'm gonna I'm gonna I'm gonna work on a we're gonna strap, and then you can decide if you want Teo like, yeah, and I think that's you know, I think also for you potential donors or anyone that is coming across the work. That's the quickest line for Connexion. To them, I think it is with those storeys, whether that is in the written word in podcast audio in video. That's the easiest way that people relate when they hear about the mother with three kids that started a cafe. And it's all of a sudden like, Well, that 100% could be me, because I'm a mom with three kids and may not run a cafe, But I run this And so I think,

Taban Shoresh:   46:07
how amazing would it be if they themselves are the storytellers? Yeah, completely. Because it's one thing that I get it. I get a lot of people going out, but asking to go out to cover their storeys and we've done it. But I think sometimes they get tired of sharing their storeys because they see no result of what what's happening to the Storey. Where is it going? So actually giving them the power to share their own storeys is, I think, phenomenal.

Neil:   46:35
And I think that's an incredible point that if the ownership of it and actually it's not being something else that is taken away from them to someone else to either get glory or attention for it when all of it should be on them. So I think I think that's I think that's

Jack:   46:50
really important, you know, and is so the charity give directly. I don't know if you've heard of it. It's so it's a charity. It runs in Kenya. That aim is to give 98% off the money they receive just directly to the people on the people who receive the donation. They write a paragraph or two about how it's changed, like how they're going to spend it and how it's going to improve their lives. And so you get this really nice sort of testimonial when you look at where your donations go to C O R Person has written in their own words, which have been translated. This is what I've done with the money. I have spent it on building some corrugated shedding or I've bought a new cow or decided to pay for the school fees for my Children so that they will be able to have an education and just seeing those storeys associated with the charity really like it's what encouraged me to donate to charity. So it's that idea of hear storeys on DH testimonials told by the people who are living there. I think it's just wonderful

Taban Shoresh:   47:51
you got project

Jack:   47:53
okay, Yeah, that was like, You know, when you you know, I guess there are two things. So you guys want heard because I turn off the microphone. But after I did, I just kept saying nice things because it's like it's rare. You get to stop and talk to someone who's decided. Really. Teo totally change their lives and just dedicate themselves to doing something positive and trying. Teo say okay, Yeah, The world has problems. I can use myself, my energies, my efforts, my life tto make the situation better on DH. When you get to see someone who's doing that and you get to talk to them about some of the results that they've seen. I just think it's Ah, we're in a very lucky place to be ableto privileged base to be able to hear those storeys.  

Neil:   48:53
Yeah, completely. I mean, I think I said it a couple of times, but just to reiterate it, it is just And it's also just the way she's doing it in, you know, actually helping these women and young girls to help themselves and giving them the tools that they need. And that's, you know, by hearing these storeys, it helps us realise what we can do. And actually, it's not just about I don't have the money or the time, but actually it's like I do have the expertise and I do have the knowledge that can help other people. And it isn't just about the money that you have, although, as I said, you should go and donate if you can, because that would be great. But also yeah, within your own local communities, what expertise do you have that can help other people?

Jack:   49:33
And I think that's one of the great messages from this is Even aside from the Lotus Flower project, maybe everyone could spend more time and go. Actually, what could I give back? There isn't necessarily just money. And also, as you heard, you can maybe make that approach, you know, maybe make their approach to a local charity and say, Listen, this is what I could offer. And don't feel shy or embarrassed or  

Neil:   50:01
Yeah, it is always a good Good thing  

Neil:   50:15
I did it better. Anyway, If you love today's episode, don't forget to come and tell us how much you loved it on social media at a good good thing. Because we would love to hear from you on DH. We'd love to hear some of your ideas of what you think you can do to help your local communities. We will see you in the next episode.

Neil:   50:34
I hope you enjoy yourselves and speak to you later. Bye.   

Jack:   0:00