Ever since we started, our goal has been to change lives for the better.
We want to create communities through clothing, and this begins by giving a helping hand to people in those communities who have slipped through the cracks or fallen on tough times.
After many years of donation and collaboration with different charitable initiatives in Europe, Africa, and beyond, our Legacy platform was set up to provide more direction to this aim.
Legacy focuses on helping communities in countries where we have a presence: either because it’s one of our production locations, we have a team there, or because we have a solid foundation of people who love our garments.
PART OF THE COMMUNITY
Some of our clothing is produced relatively close to Syria, making us a small part of a local community which hosts many refugees who have fled the brutal decade-long civil war in the country.
We visited our production site and witnessed the highly challenging situation for some of the refugees living in the camps nearby, and we felt it was our responsibility to help.
This is our first major Legacy project.
A GLIMPSE OF A CHILDHOOD
Many of the Syrian children living in camps are without any form of education, and by building and funding schools we felt we could give them some happy moments in their lives: something that no one or nothing can ever take away from them.
“We have no idea how to build a school, but we are fortunate enough as a business to be in the position where we can fund one. We were particularly keen on partnering up with 5 Skoler because of their experience and because we could be sure that 100% of the money went to the right place,” said Andreas von der Heide, Les Deux’s Co-Founder.
5 Skoler are a charity based in Denmark, and we provided them with the full funding they needed to refurbish a rundown building and turn it into a school for one of the camps.
“At 5 Skoler, we build schools for children who don’t have a school,” explained Zarah Kirketerp-Møller, Co-CEO of the charity.
“There are children fleeing the civil war in Syria and living in refugee camps, and we try to make a magic space where they can feel safe and secure,” said Maren Elise Skjerlie, her Co-CEO and the Founder of 5 Skoler.
The result of each of the organization's projects differs, with the charity providing a wide range of educational facilities from tents all the way through to brick-and-mortar buildings.
“We often say that even though the cloth in our tents is only two millimeters thick, it feels like the harsh world outside can’t come in. It’s a space where children who don’t have a childhood get the opportunity of a glimpse of one,” Zarah said.
THE FORGOTTEN CHILDREN
The building that 5 Skoler have renovated with Les Deux’s help was empty for 30 years, leading to severe damage. Along with basics like new floors and windows, it’s been fitted with air conditioning, and tables, chairs, and learning materials have been provided. The walls have been decorated with Disney characters and bright colors, building a space for children where they can be creative.
In addition to core funding to help the school run on a day-to-day basis, a bus has also been bought that takes the children from the nearby refugee camp to the school, which makes a significant difference to how many children can attend the school.
“Most of these kids have never left the camp. They’re born there and they’ve never set foot outside,” Zarah explained.
The children are also given a hot meal each day for lunch, something which they may not receive each day at the camp.
“We call them the forgotten children because no one ever speaks about them. So, we must be their microphone, making sure that they're remembered,” Zarah said.
KIDS RASING KIDS
Due to financial pressures, many adults in refugee camps are forced to work long days picking fruit and vegetables, which leaves their children alone for hours at a time.
“If they were not going to school, the children would just spend the day in the camp, usually by themselves with no-one to look after them. Kids raising kids,” Maren said.
Along with the positive effect of the project on the lives of the children, the school also affects the community at large.
“You take children that have nothing, and you give them a childhood. You give them some capabilities that no one can ever take away from them. You give them a chance to take those capabilities back to their community and help their community because their mother and father, usually they can't read or write,” Zarah finished.
A RIPPLE OF IMPACT
It’s this ripple of impact that was crucial to our Co-Founder, Andreas von der Heide, who visited the camp to speak to the community living there.
“In my experience, most people just want a better future for themselves and their families,” he said. “This project isn’t just about helping children. Instead, it provides them with the foundation they need to help themselves, and in doing so help their community.”
The geopolitical situation around the Syrian war is obviously hugely complex, and the obvious question is what kind of real influence a single business can have. But as Andreas explained, it’s more about helping the people you can and targeting funding at specific projects.
“You just need to be realistic and honest about what you’re doing. We’re not going to save the world by building a school, and it would be disingenuous of us to act like it. But as a company, we do have a strong belief that impact spreads. Changing the lives of individuals really does change the lives of entire communities in time,” he said.
While the primary benefactors of the project are the community of refugees, Andreas believes it’s also positive for the people who work at Les Deux.
“Projects like this give me so much energy, and I notice this in the team as well. I think it really motivates people to work for a company that takes responsibility and prioritizes these sorts of things. For me it’s not only about the product, it never has been. It’s about people.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY
It’s perhaps easy to forget the personal stories when such vast numbers of people have been displaced from their homes over the course of the war in Syria: estimates reach as high as 6.8 million.
Ahmed, one of the leaders of the camp and a teacher, spoke passionately about his homeland, which he hopes to return to one day.
“I miss my village and my community from Syria. I miss the river where I used to swim, I miss the traditions, the parties at the village, I miss the memories, and I miss my love from that time. I have my land in my heart, and I smell it in my soul.”
While the day-to-day lives of the children in the camps are different from those in a more conventional setting, there are distinct overlaps. One student spoke about what the school is like. “I have a lot of friends in the school. We go outside, we play basketball, we play tennis, we play football. Sometimes, my friends and I make theater together.”
The children in the camp want to be doctors, police officers, and singers, and as Mohammed, one of the teachers in the school explains, it’s a mistake to assume that the children are damaged by their experiences.
“I don’t see any differences between the children I teach now and those I taught in Syria before the war. It’s a very warm community here, everyone helps each other,” he said.
This project is ultimately a drop in the vast ocean of a problem that is the Syrian civil war. But what it does do is improve the lives of a few people in a small way and give them a little more hope for the future.
The situation in many of the camps is highly challenging. But despite this, many of the refugees find joy in their lives, highlighting an impressive strength of spirit.
Even in the toughest settings, people fundamentally remain optimistic when they are surrounded by their community.
We provided 5 Skoler with the funding needed to renovate a school and buy a school bus for a refugee camp in 2022.
Annual operational and running costs like food and energy were also met. Due to the success of the project, we’ve since committed to funding a kindergarten on the site for younger children.
To protect the identity of vulnerable people, some names and locations have been omitted or changed.