SEP Jordan provides more than just beautiful, unique items, however. Social impact is at the core of its mission.
“Jerash Camp opened in 1968, so this is the fourth generation of people living there,” Roberta explains. “They face tremendous difficulties on a daily basis: very little work, no proper education and healthcare, nutrition problems, inadequate shelters, sewage overflow, and rampant debt from wild micro-lending, which has landed many of the SEP artists’ husbands in jail.”
Roberta’s enterprise is working to change that.
“SEP Jordan has an emotional and economic impact on the lives of women who happen to be refugees,” Roberta tells me. “The SEP artists find us through word-of-mouth, and we provide them with a compulsory 2-month free training program to upgrade their skills to the highest standard. We then pay them per item they complete at a 30-50% premium to the market rate in Jordan.”
SEP Jordan works directly with each artist, and holds weekly conference calls with the camp manager. “There isn’t a middle man,” Roberta says. “We keep track of the work of every single lady and make sure they are paid on time.”
SEP Jordan also provides activities at the camp, such as talks on domestic violence, nutrition, art, and English classes for children.
Prior to founding SEP Jordan, Roberta worked in Investment Banking and Asset Management for 20 years.
“I’ve always been passionate about helping refugees, and realised that the situation was actually getting worse despite relief funds,” she says. “While donations from charities are crucial in times of crisis, people are negatively impacted by living off donations in the long-term. I realised that the private sector could make a positive impact, providing a dignified lifestyle to refugees while they wait. By giving the SEP artists an opportunity to earn a living and take pride in their work, our social enterprise is changing not only this generation at the camp, but also the next.”