Sensitivity, soap and Syria

‘Make it short & snappy’

How a beautiful birthday gift led to thoughts of Syria and how we can help others using some inspiring role models along the way

‘Just the facts please’

  • My favourite facts about aleppo soap
  • It is reported to be one of the oldest soaps in the world
  • The olive oil and laurel (bay) oil are great for your skin in terms of moisturising and being gentle on your skin
  • How you can help like Katja is by contacting RAMFEL (Refugee and Migrant Forum for Essex and London)
  • Website: http://www.ramfel.org.uk/wordpress/
  • Facebook
  • Email info@ramfel.org.uk
  • Twitter: @RAMFELcharity
  • Call (please bear in mind they are currently experiencing exceptionally large volume of queries and you may find their phone lines engaged, but please do leave a message and they will get back to you as soon as possible).
  • Donate space, time or unwanted items to help those in need.
  • TED Talk about conflict resolution in war-torn areas with William Ury.

‘I’ve got a cup of tea, tell me all about it…’

As someone with sensitive skin, I was touched when along with giving me a hamper of sensory delights in the form of delicious hand blended loose leaf teas and herbs from their travels, my friends also give me an innocuous looking murky fudge-coloured slightly tacky block tied up with brown string and a paper label. I was told it was a natural soap which was lovely, but didn’t spur me to think much more about it.

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During a recent clear up, I rediscovered my birthday bundle and set away brewing a pot of specially selected birthday tea complete with hundreds and thousands! Whilst my pot was infusing I idly played with the soap tag. Having battled with various skin conditions, I have been investigating more of the natural world. I read the soap was called savon d’alep, assuming alep must be a word for olive oil or some other nourishing ingredient. I was intrigued to discover it is actually a whole world of soap history originating in Syria!

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This got me to thinking all sorts of things. I tend not to focus too much attention to the news, finding it altogether too saturated in woe and misery with no focus on how to rectify or make things better. The Syrian plight at present has seeped into my consciousness, not least due to the heart warming response that many have had including a dear friend of mine, Katja Rosenberg. I met Katja through writing about her in my E17 Art Trail work (links above) and ever since have regarded her as a truly generous soul having shared so much and given such joy to others including encouraging people to write their favourite word on her living room floor!

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Katja by name, cat-ja by mug

She made me aware of her starring role on non other than Sky News where she has giving up her bedroom for refugees to sleep on her couch. As a couch surfer and air bnber I’ve always seen it as a way to exchange cultures and get to know others, she has just taken it to another level! In fact in Germany they already have a helping version of air bnb as described here. I have deep respect for her. Although my current tenancy agreement prohibits this, I would like to share the details of how to do this if you too would like to help. In Katja’s own passionate words in answer to my questions Where will you be living if you find someone? How did you get details of how to help?”

Hi Natasha, you ask the right questions!!!!! YOU ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS. Contact www.ramfel.org.uk and a tireless lady called Rita will get back to you as soon as she possibly can which might take a few days. You then get someone to stay with you and if it is not working out for you, you tell them and they deal with the rest. Hopefully not to happen. And then you might have someone for days weeks months depending on their situ.They get food money so you can’t expect rent money but apart from that, things are catered for. I will be sleeping in the lounge on that pull out sofa in the film!!!

Thinking back to the soap, for something so gentle and caring to come out of a country so war-torn is such a contrast. I watched a great TED talk on conflict resolution about walking together and how by creating a walk through areas you may think unsafe highlights some surprising outcomes. Have a watch here, you may also be surprised.

This exercise has made me so grateful to be able to open my door, step through and pour fresh clean hot water with my super organic, pure products when there are those in so much greater need out there desperate for our sensitivity and gentle nature in return.

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