HARTS (Hands on Refugees’ Talent and Sustainability)

HAnds on Refugees Talent and Sustainability, commonly known as “HARTS”, is an initiative of the Greek Forum of Refugees that had, from its beginning, the goal of empowering women with a refugee or migrant background. Based on the talent, abilities and the skills of the women of the group and combined with the drive of Photene Kalpakioti, the team of “HARTS” began to grow forming the heart of the Greek Forum of Refugees. The idea was conceived during a visit to Lesvos in 2016 by Photene, who found that women in temporary accommodation structures were not included in initiatives or programs aimed at strengthening and empowering the refugee population.

The workshop HARTS is not only where the art begins but, mainly, it is about women’s empowering time and space in which they design, train and support each other through their creations. This constitutes a private meeting between women, apart from their difficult everyday life outside the camps, where they share their stories, their experiences and skills in terms of traditional handicrafts. The HARTS initiative has also been an excellent tool for
mapping both the talents and skills of women with refugee background and their needs. Above all, however, it is a recognition of what these women can bring to us and a way to encourage them to rely on themselves, to be autonomous.

The team throughout the last years meets on a regular basis, once or twice a week, with its members sharing with each other their skills and passion, their experiences and stories, their anxieties and ambitions. The team is the body that recognizes the abilities and skills of women themselves, giving them self-confidence. The initiative offers professional support, training tools, seminars for the development of skills and, at the same time, contributes to
the promotion of their work in the market.


  • Embroidery team women, led by the refugee women of the group, that conducted
    workshops with guests from schools & universities
  • Poetry group
  • Tale collection and storytelling team
  • Creation of advocacy & women empowerment videos
  • Participation in events
  • Participation in bazaars
  • Participation in art exhibitions
  • Bowling and leisure activities for mothers and their children
  • Horseback riding
  • Picnic
  • Greek and English language courses for women who did not have access to the educational
    system in their countries of origin
  • Workshops on employability and social entrepreneurship
  • Information and awareness on issues of public interest such as climate change, the process
    and method of recycling etc.
  • Sessions for information and awareness on issues of gender-based violence and women’s
  • Information and awareness sessions on issues concerning the LGBTQI + community
    -Production of protective masks and their distribution.
    -Active participation in the campaign of the Greek Forum of Refugees to support the most
    vulnerable population affected by the lockdown period during the outbreak of the covid19
    pandemic (distribution of basic necessities, sanitary ware, consumables, medicines and
    supermarket coupons).
  • Participation in the Greek Forum of Refugees’ Self-Advocacy Team (SAT) and
    representation of the refugee and migrant communities in the national and European
  • Conducting information campaigns on the initiative of the women’s group itself
  • Organization of events and activities for Women’s Day (March 8) and the Day for the
    Elimination of Violence against Women (November 25).
    Every donation given to the Greek Forum of Refugees for the “HARTS” initiative is utilized
    for the purchase of the necessary materials for the creations of the women’s group, but also
    for the carrying out of the activities.

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