Business on the Frontlines continues work with Palestinian artisans

Author: Shannon Roddel

Notre Dame Students And Alumni At Ccf S Center
Notre Dame Students And Alumni At CCF

The West Bank city of Jenin is an area plagued by violence and destruction. It is here that the University of Notre Dame’s Meyer Business on the Frontlines Program works with Palestinian women artisans to create economic opportunities for themselves and their families.

Notre Dame MBA students enrolled in Frontlines courses work in the West Bank and with communities around the world that have suffered violence, poverty and prejudice.

For the past six years, the Frontlines program at Mendoza College of Business has partnered with the nonprofit social enterprise Child’s Cup Full (CCF), which empowers talented refugee and low-income artisans in the West Bank through its two brands, Darzah, women’s ethical fashion accessories, and Zeki Learning, children’s educational toys.

Darzah and Zeki Learning employ some 40 Palestinian women as full-time and part-time artisans, including Rasha, whose family has lived in Jenin Camp for 75 years. On July 3, Israeli troops conducted a two-day military operation in the city.

Artisans Rasha On The Right 400
Artisans (Rasha On Right End)

“Her home was destroyed in the attack, and family members of three other artisans were injured and lost their homes,” said CCF founder Janette Habashi, who created the brands. “Destroyed roads also made it difficult for the artisans to reach neighboring towns where their raw materials are sourced.”

As the destruction became clear, CCF and Frontlines increased their collaboration and support. CCF created safe havens for artisans and their families at its center and in churches in Zababdeh, which is about 6 miles from Jenin Camp.

“Lines of communication were down, and we could not connect to our artisans or their families,” Habashi said. “It took us two days to reach Rasha, and we were relieved to hear her voice, but the situation was terrible for her family.”

Kelly Rubey, assistant teaching professor for the Business on the Frontlines MBA course, visited the West Bank with a Notre Dame team in 2022. The team worked closely with Notre Dame International’s safety and security team on campus and the Jerusalem Global Gateway, who monitor these events for students, faculty and staff. The small group, including three graduate students and two alumni, was hosted by Rasha’s family.

Nd Students Shop For Raw Materials With Ccf Artisans 400
ND Students And Artisans Shop For Materials 

“They were such generous hosts, and the six of us felt so welcomed by everyone in the camp,” Rubey said.

“Working for CCF gives the artisans purpose — an opportunity to share both their culture and their skills,” she said. “There is so much dignity and empowerment in the work they do.”

Understanding the complexities of operating a business amid ongoing West Bank violence prompted students several years ago to recommend a working CCF advisory board in an effort to increase sales and opportunities. Notre Dame alumni were among the first contributors. This summer, they hired a new employee to lead those efforts.

Now in its 16th year, the Meyer Business on the Frontlines Program addresses pressing issues worldwide, including post-conflict rehabilitation, poverty, illicit economies, isolation and prejudice. Notre Dame MBA and other graduate students and faculty have worked on more than 90 projects in over 35 countries through a three-pronged approach that combines the rigor of business, the best of academia and a belief in the dignity of work for all people.

Frontlines partners with international humanitarian organizations, local nongovernmental organizations like CCF, Fortune 500 companies and religious organizations to find local solutions that create jobs or set the conditions for economic growth. It’s estimated that thousands of people now have livelihoods as a direct result of these partnerships.

“The attack on Jenin only increased our motivation to continue our work in the West Bank and served as a reminder for CCF and the advisory board of the need to create new employment opportunities,” Rubey said. “Clearly, the days of oppression and limited economic opportunity are far from over for Palestinians in the West Bank.”

Learn more about the partnership between Business on the Frontlines and Child’s Cup Full here.

Watch “Fighting to Rebuild Communities,” featuring BOTFL.