Using her skills to keep her new community safe: Rokaya’s story
Rokaya arrived in the UK from Syria last year. Now, the trained tailor is helping in the fight against coronavirus by using her talents to keep her community healthy
A tailor by trade, mother-of-two Royaka arrived in the UK in 2019. She and her family were beginning to feel settled in their new home in Wrexham, North Wales, when the nationwide lockdown began.
Originally from Aleppo, the family had arrived as part of the Syrian refugee resettlement programme. As coronavirus began to spread across their adopted country, Rokaya decided to call on her skills as a tailor, donating her time and her talents to her new community.
THIS IS AN INTERNATIONAL PANDEMIC AFFECTING PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD - IT'S IMPORTANT FOR US TO TAKE PART AND HELP IF WE CAN.Rokaya
Aware that personal protective equipment was in high demand for key workers, Rokaya started to sew hundreds of face masks using a small sewing machine at her home.
“I wanted to contribute because people are dying and we care about their lives,” said Rokaya. “This is an international pandemic affecting people around the world. It is important for us to take part and help if we can.”
Rokaya had bought herself the sewing machine after arriving in the UK, but initially struggled to get hold of enough materials and elastic to start her project. She contacted the British Red Cross and told them of her plans, and was soon able to get started.
“This is what I can do and I’m so pleased to offer what I can,” said Rokaya. “I have been pushed to do this because of the situation we are in: people cannot leave their homes, and people need to cover their faces. I wanted to contribute, to do something about it while we are sitting at home, just to support.
Getting the whole family involved
And she’s not the only talented tailor in her family – her 17-year-old son Jalal has been getting involved, too. Since his college closed earlier this year, he has been taking some time in between his online English and IT lessons to help make the masks.
The British Red Cross – who supported Rokaya and her family when they first arrived in the UK - will collect all masks made by Rokaya and Jalal, and will distribute them where needed.
“The Red Cross has helped us a lot,” said Rokaya. “They brought us here to the house then helped us to get to know the area, registering with a GP, the college, and the job centre.”
Rokaya’s family are now receiving online English lessons and are teaching themselves from books. “It is a difficult situation for us and for everyone [but] we study, so we asked the school to send books for Muhammad – my youngest – and I teach him. Jalal and I have joined an online course with the college and we have some fun in the garden, to get some exercise.”
So far, Rokaya and Jalal have produced more than 100 individual face masks, each taking about ten minutes to put together.
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