Through textile design, the social CBS start-up Novaheim aims to build a bridge between female asylum seekers and the Danish job market. Following the pilot project of spring 2017, Novaheim is now carrying on creative internships on for instance knitting and sewing at Avnstrup Asylcenter and is almost ready to launch its online shop.
We went to Avnstrup with the two founders, Emilie Bruun Poulsen and Marie-Louise Reade Lomholt, to see how the women involved are responding to the project.
It’s 9am and one by one, the women arrive carrying a coloured paper box containing their sewing kit. They are smiling and after affectionately saying hi to Emilie and Marie-Louise, they sit at the tables.
The atmosphere is very lively and chatty, the past months have helped build up a sense of trust between the women and the two founders, but also a sense of family among all. Regardless of cultural differences, everyone gets along very well and tries to help each other.
Even though most of the women come from the Middle East, there is quite a lot of diversity. Some of them already speak fluent Danish or English. In some other cases, communication is hard, but that doesn’t stop the learning process at all. Emilie and Marie-Louise have translated the instructions in various languages and even made some YouTube videos that the women can watch during their free time.
As a matter of fact, Emilie and Marie-Louise are surprised by how fast the women are learning and the pace with which they are finishing the products. The next phase of the internships will include teaching the participants how to use sewing and knitting machines. To help during this process, two designers have also joined the team of Novaheim and together with the women, they are expanding the product portfolio.
This is an important upgrade in terms of skill development for women at Avnstrup Asylcenter, as it will help them get closer to the Danish job market.
A lot of these women have never worked during their lives because of the cultural background they come from. Teaching them new skills not only helps them during daily life at the center, but also makes the shift into the Danish labour smoother as they have concrete competences to build upon. And most importantly they get acquainted with the basic norms and values that exist on the Danish labour market such as the social gamerules, meeting stability, responsibilities, etc.
In the following months, Novaheim will be launching its online shop. Not only customers will be able to purchase high-quality home accessories, but also to know the stories behind the women who’ve made them.
If you want to know more about Novaheim’s projects, Emilie and Marie-Louise will be speaking at the “Sustainable Business and Careers” event at CBS on the 20th of March. Novaheim has also been nominated for the entrepreneurial prize Frederiksberg Iværksætterpris 2018 and is among the three finalists who will be pitching on the 1st of March.