If you work at Darn Tough, you’re family. And we’re privileged to be part of this family, full of good people, people who care, who are passionate to make a difference. Recently, we had the honor of a family member inviting us to participate in a cause she is passionate about, making a difference in the lives of children who no longer have families. Orphans. It’s a weighty topic, a topic this Darn Tough family member didn’t shy away from, but stepped into with the mindset of a servant leader. We believe that’s worth supporting.
Olivia is the Innovation Developer here at Darn Tough. Part of the Product Development Team, Olivia has contributed to multiple projects that pushed us one step closer to making our best sock and challenged us to be more sustainable - that alone is worth celebrating. In the past year though, Olivia has also invited us to support her by donating socks to an organization she supports, the Syrian Emergency Task Force.
Communities Helping Communities
The Syrian Emergency Task Force (SEFT) is a non-profit organization that works within Syria with IDPs – that’s Internally Displaced Persons. If you want to learn more about the situation in Syria, accredited director M. Night Shyamalan made a video (age restricted due to some disturbing content) in partnership with SEFT, sharing his learnings about the Syrian Revolution.
Spurred into existence in 2011 from the compassion of a community in Arkansas, SEFT has grown in the past decade, yet continues to be almost exclusively supported by individuals. Or as Olivia describes it:
“In the spectrum in the world, it’s hard to feel like we’re doing anything… this is a community helping a community.” At Darn Tough, we’ve been incredibly supported and invested in by our Vermont community. We know the difference and impact a single, tight-knit community makes.
Three ways SEFT and its supporting community seek to make a difference are through Tomorrow’s Dawn, House of Healing, and Wisdom House.
- Tomorrow’s Dawn Women's Center is a vocational school in northern Idlib that offers courses like nursing, wool and crafts, and cosmetology for widows of war. The center also provides educational courses to secondary students who have missed years of school due to the war.
- Located on the border of Turkey and Syria, the House of Healing is a center for Syrian Internally Displaced Persons with severe war injuries or exceptionally rare illnesses. The House of Healing provides a safe place to live, warm meals, and transportation to and from medical appointments.
- The Wisdom House Kindergarten is a school for orphans in northwest Syria. The resilient children and teachers have been displaced multiple times due to bombardment by the Syrian regime, but over 100 children graduate from the Wisdom House each year.
The Value of Warmth
Olivia approached us last year with the story of Wisdom House, and asked if we would support her in making a difference, however small, by providing socks. Why socks?
“We don’t think about how valuable your warmth is,” shares Olivia. There’s so much need for warmth. Winters are so harsh children freeze to death, and pistachio shells are one of the few inexpensive fuels that isn’t also hazardous to burn. Warm socks make a world of difference.
“We also wanted to send something that was easy care,” Olivia continues. “These socks can just be rinsed and dried, and they have much-needed durability and longevity in a situation where it’s about wearing clothing until it doesn’t wear anymore. I’m excited about sending these quality pieces to people who really need them.”
Socks for Wisdom House
To date, we’ve donated 600 pairs of socks through the Task Force. In 2021, our product team designed socks specifically for Wisdom House using overstock yarns, yarns there gathering dust and set to be downcycled, giving them new life on the feet of children who needed them.
“These are custom-made socks with the Wisdom House logo knit into the back of the cuff, in the hopes that they can be a connecting point for the children as they grow and explore and world,” Olivia explains.
At Wisdom House, these displaced children can build a new community, begin their education, and find hope. Over a million children are among the five million people displaced in Northwest Syria as part of the ongoing conflict, making a place to feel safe and grow all the more important. Hopefully, the community they build at Wisdom House will stay with them as they move forward.
That first donation of 250 pairs of socks had a long journey to reach the children at Wisdom House. The socks were knit at Darn Tough’s Mill in Vermont, traveled to the Task Force US headquarters, from which they were sent all the way to Gaziantep, a city in south-central Turkey. From there, the socks combined with other donations and entered Syria. The Task Force sent us pictures of the children smiling and showing off their new socks.
“These gifts mean the world,” shares Abby Straessle, Director of Development with the Task Force. “The children are what the Syrian people care about the most, they just want them to be free, to have an education. The country is in danger of a whole decade of kids not being in school.”
Since then, Olivia has kept an open line of communication with the Task Force, and we’re happy to say that another 350 pairs of socks recently arrived in Syria, with kids socks for Wisdom House, as well as a selection of adult socks for House of Healing and Tomorrow’s Dawn. We couldn’t be more humbled by their response.
"The kids were so happy to have the socks, and they all wanted was to put them on immediately," shared a teacher from Wisdom House. "As soon as they students picked their socks, they told me, 'Teacher, we want to wear them now.'"
Sometimes it’s the gifts that seem small to us that accomplish above and beyond what we would ever dream. Socks bringing a smile to a child’s face. Medical care provided to someone in great need. Or in some cases, even just a letter with kind words, a drawing, or encouragement.
One impactful way you can partner with the Task Force is to write a letter – a letter of hope – to the teachers and children at Wisdom House.
“Wisdom House decorates the walls of their school with them. They’ve said it’s more important than any money they can provide because it makes them feel like they’re not alone,” says Abby.
We could not be prouder of Olivia and her leadership in helping our Darn Tough community support these children and other displaced individuals in need of shelter, warmth, and hope. Nothing makes us feel more honored then when one of our family members shares a passion with us and invites us to participate, but this one hit close to our home. Because if there’s something we get, that we can never overvalue, it’s the importance of family and community.