GUEST BLOG - SCENTS OF PURPOSE: FRAGRANCE AND SOAP PROJECT, ZAATARI ANNE LOUVET, GLOBAL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, GIVAUDAN
The true scale of Zaatari became apparent during an unexpected visit to the roof of the central water tower, the highest spot in town, accompanied by our UNHCR translator and guide. A vast expanse of barren desert, covered as far as the eye can see in all directions by groups of white caravans arranged into family compounds, agremented by corrigated iron porches and covered courtyards. Battered by the scorching dust of summer and the cruel cold of winter, these rudimentary container homes house almost 80,000 people.
The barren exterior common to all the compounds is broken here and there by vivid graffiti, sometimes whole districts have a common theme - defiant colours proclaiming fury, defiance, hope - and beauty.
It is this desire for beauty in defiance of adversity which led to Givaudan being invited, in 2017 to take part in the educational programmes for women which London College of Fashion was initiating in collaboration with UNHCR, UN women, IRD and other NGO's.
For those of us who work with fragrance each day, we are well aware of the power of smell to resonate directly with our emotions, to elevate product experience, to awaken deep-rooted memories. How fragrance could resonate in such an inhospitable place and with a group of women who have fled their homes and experienced varying degrees of trauma – this we could not begin to imagine.
Givaudan management embraced this opportunity and gave full support to a small cross-functional group of fragrance experts from London, France and Dubai who worked together to devise an initial 3-day fragrance training programme in Zaatari in September 2017. The success of this first session was such that a subsequent workshop was held in March 2018 and another is planned for December 2018 to continue and expand upon the initial programme, and to help the ladies to explore self-sustaining small business opportunities.
Just one year on from the first session, and the Zaatari soap and fragrance workshops have provided a small group of ladies with not only the technical expertise to begin small-scale manufacture of soaps and fragrance blends for sale within the camp, but more importantly with a voice in their community, and the confidence to train others. The ripple effect of our small sessions has now grown well beyond the confines of the container-classroom where the Givaudan Team-Z initiated the first group of 20 or so ladies into the magic and mystery of fragrance.
The next stage of the journey is to enable the ladies to develop self-sustaining small businesses, in the form of a Beauty co-op, located within Zaatari. With generous support from the Givaudan Foundation, we are currently collaborating with UNHCR, IRD and the London school of Fashion to build a four-caravan compound which will house a Soap and Fragrance workshop and training facility, a Beauty salon, a Creche and a showroom for selected products and crafts created in the camp.
Rather than awakening trauma or painful memories, the fragrance workshops have been typified by positive energy, intense concentration - and laughter. Certain fragrances arouse animated discussion and debate – memories of home; a favourite flower or cologne; the scent of childhood. These are joyful sessions where the women can express their creativity, resilience and hope in a brighter future. It is a privilege to be part of their journey.