I’m sure you would agree that the power of a gift has many layers. A gift affects the person giving it, it affects the one receiving it, and oftentimes those “observing” a gift in motion are inspired by the kindness and love that is always felt when generosity is expressed.
So on that note, we thought we would share the backstory to this year’s 2019 “Colour Gift”. A gift that was crazy, fun and impacting. A gift that became a complex labour of love across five continents, eight conferences and an ocean of willing hands. A gift that left its mark and involved thousands of special handmade soaps from refugee sisters in the Iraq and Syria region… plus a specially designed shower cap created as a vivid reminder that Sisterhood is often a Fight Club for that which is good and noble on the earth.
So here is a glimpse both in pictures and words from some of our team (Cass, Carl-Hugo and Catherine) of how a random idea set-in motion a story that had far reaching impact. Enjoy!
From Cassandra Langton (Global Worship & Creative Pastor, Hillsong Church)
When Bobbie told us her vision for the gift moment at Colour we couldn’t help but think that there was a way to use the creative elements to remind girls every time they used the soap and shower cap they would be prompted to pray and slay! We dreamed, laboured, laughed and collaborated until we had a medley of songs, kids dressed as rubber ducks and a room full of bubbles that culminated in “Say a Little Prayer” and the Sisterhood declaration incorporated into a rap which brought it right into our everyday realities – hopefully you never look at that soap the same way again.
From Carl-Hugo Ander (Events Director, Hillsong Church)
The logistics behind getting the Colour gift from Iraq to Colour Conference around the world was no small thing, and we think you might be intrigued by the journey the handmade soaps went on before they arrived in the hands of our delegates.
Have you ever come home from shopping and when turning over your purchase found a sticker that says, “Made in Iraq”? Probably not! (with the exception of crude oil, but we didn’t think oil would make an appropriate gift!). We discovered that exporting anything from Iraq is quite the task, but a task we knew was worthy of the effort.
The beautiful soaps were made in the northern parts of Iraq, around Mosul. If you look at a map of Iraq you can see it is more-or-less land locked, with only a tiny coastline on the southern tip. Our initial plan was to truck the gifts from Mosul to the coastal city of Basra and then sea freight the gifts from there. The trucking itself would have been tricky to say the least in a country controlled by various factions and internal borders. We also soon discovered that the most cost-effective way to ship via sea freight (shared container shipment) is actually illegal in Iraq! The other way to ship by sea typically costs around $1,000 per container, but to ship just one container out of Iraq was going to cost $15,000, and we had 4 containers! So we had to consider other ways to get the gifts from Iraq to Colour Conferences.
Ultimately we landed on a plan, not without its challenges, to Airfreight the gifts from Erbil (100kms from Mosul) to their intended destinations. The gifts may have sat on the tarmac for a few weeks waiting on export approval, but in the end they arrived to all four continents where Colour was held this year!
The story of the Colour gift doesn’t end there because arriving in a country and clearing customs we learnt are two very different things. Soap is considered a cosmetic, which required us to comply with numerous different import regulations in each of the countries. Let’s just say, clearing customs in 4 different continents is also no small thing. In the end, the soaps made by the hands of our beautiful Iraqi sisters did successfully arrive at each of our Colour Conference locations and into the hands our beautiful delegates.
From Catherine Thambiratnam (Head of Social Justice, Hillsong Church Australia)
This year the people that really felt the impact of this gift were not us, the recipients of the gift, but those who created it. Those women who had shaped, poured, cut, packed and sent their soap halfway around the world to us. Marwa, Sozann, Goze were just three women who were part of this miracle story.
The women who received the order from Colour this year were refugees, women who had lost everything in their escape from violence in their communities. Some of them had lost children in the flight, every one of them had lost their homes, possessions and a sense of belonging. The soap was a way for them to bring back dignity to their lives, to be able to provide for themselves and their families, to bring their children into a world where they were safe and protected.
The soap order for Colour this year earned its makers enough money from your soap order to support their family for 12 months! But this doesn’t just mean that their immediate needs were met, it means that they had the time and space to dream for the future, to see a better life for themselves. And that is exactly what has happened. Because of the size of the order, they began to believe that people would want their soap, that they could make it better and reach further markets.
They have not only dreamed about the types of soap they can make but also the potential of those soaps. Since our Colour order they have worked together to gain a certification for their soap and can now sell them in supermarkets in Iraq for the first time, expanding their business and allowing them to provide for the future.
“None of this would have happened without you. Imagine ten years from now the stories of impact we’ll be able to share as your gift continues to empower and inspire. Through your support of these women, you helped enable them to care for their families, you gave them the freedom to boldly dream of what could be possible and provided them the financial capacity to experiment and create.
With all my heart, and on behalf of all the soapmakers, thank you.” Jessica Courtney, Pre-emptive Love
This is a gift I am so proud to have been a part of!