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Cooking Up A Friendship

Much is lost when people flee their homes in the face of war, persecution or natural disaster. But cultures are resilient and emerge afresh in the new lands their carriers journey through.

For many migrants and refugees, it is the rhythms, textures and aromas of their past that strengthen fresh roots and a sense of belonging in new their homes. 

In a city as diverse and vibrant as Wellington, new cuisines can open doors on unexplored cultures and rich stories. 

It’s these stories that are the inspiration behind ‘Welcome Home’. Logan Brown’s Wellington on a Plate event which runs over 8 evenings between Tues16th – Fri 26th Aug. 

As part of his research Head Chef Shaun Clouston visited the homes of migrants from Myanmar, Iran and Egypt. And when he contacted Make Foundation co-founders Michel Alkhouri and Michelle Carlile-Alkhouri in search of Syrian chefs, a new door opened and he quickly found himself co-hosting the charity’s ‘Cooking Up A Friendship’ day. 

“I knew Make Foundation had been working on creative projects with schools and refugees in response to the Syrian crisis and when Michel told me about their plans for a skills exchange we both saw an opportunity to combine the two projects. Pretty soon after that we were sitting around a table with Michelle, the charity’s other director, eating home-made hummus and planning out the day, the dishes and the feast it would culminate in.”

“The idea was to create an opportunity to learn, share and come together with new friends with the intent of creating at least one skill-exchange opportunity for each participant by the end of the day,” says Michel.

Eight Syrian, Iraqi & Kiwi women made up the small gathering alongside Shaun, Michel and a bunch of amused children who mucked in to hurry proceedings along. 

“Seeing these very capable, strong, skilled women in their element, delegating, tasking, sharing their knowledge and making new connections was a joyful sight,” adds Michelle

Cooking Up A Friendship is already reaping benefits for its participants. Head Chefs Shaun and Mona are preparing Logan Brown’s kitchen for the culinary delights that will make up ‘Welcome Home’, and the Kiwi women who attended are teaching their new Syrian friends how to drive. 

But that’s not all, as well as creating new friendship opportunities, the day of learning, sharing and celebration strengthened friendships already in the making. Tima, Michelle, Nahreen and the kids  – Samo, Carlos, Luis, Luka and Naia  – went to the zoo. They’re now planning their next adventure. 


Make FoundationCooking Up A Friendship
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What Is Home? – Art Project

After five Syrian refugees shared their poignant stories of fleeing their homes, imaginations are ablaze among students participating in What Is Home? a collaborative art project between Island Bay School and Make Foundation.

Children taking part have been introduced to Syria’s history, geography, food and culture, written variations on the shared stories and explored character and narrative journeys with the help of live music.

Attention has now moved to painting story illustrations after Seaton-based artist Nicola Dench led a master-class.

The project’s goal is to produce illustrated storybooks to raise funds for our music project for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon.

You can donate to this project here.


Five weeks in and 119 paintings later!

What Is Home? art project students at Island Bay School, Wellington have let loose their creativity, empathy and enthusiasm. The result is a vibrant collection of artwork and narratives based on stories shared by Syrian refugees who recently celebrated their first year in New Zealand as ‘Kiwis’.

Make Foundation volunteers, including artist Nicola Dench (The Clay Penguin studio) and musician Ruth Prentice (Balkanistas), helped facilitate a series of workshops. Other volunteers, including photographer Nathalie Robert-Peillard and film-maker/photographer Sebastian Brown helped record the process.

Teachers as well as students have engaged and brought a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm to the project. Teacher Lizzie Waipara said her class has been excited since the onset.

From a teaching point of view it’s been a reaffirmation about the power of art.

That is something The Learning Connexion School of Creativity and Art understands well, where creative exploration is encouraged within a social learning context.

We are very grateful for The Learning Connexion’s support with this project. The school donated art supplies so the children could have their own creative exploration.

Come and see what the year 3-4 students produced after hearing moving and inspirational tales of life in pre-war Syria and challenging journeys to a new life in New Zealand.


WHAT IS HOME? FUNDRAISING ART EXHIBITION – Syrian refugee stories illustrated and re-told by Island Bay School students

You are invited to celebrate the completion of Make Foundation’s What Is Home? art project with Island Bay School.

When: Thursday 7th April at 6.30pm – 7.30pm
Where: Island Bay School hall, 6 Thames Street, Wellington
What’s happening: An exhibition of paintings and stories inspired by personal refugee experiences, original songs from young musicians who took part in an earlier music project on a similar theme.
Who’ll be there: Young artists/storywriters from year 3-4 and the teachers who worked with them, Syrian refugees/new Kiwis who shared their stories and inspired the artwork, young Wellington musicians who have written songs on the plight of Syrian refugee children, school staff, Make Foundation volunteers and founders Michelle Carlile-Alkhouri and Michel Alkhouri.

Following the exhibition, book designer Anna Brown and senior lecturer at Massey University’s School of Design will make books from the paintings and stories. Wakefields Digital has generously offered to scan these ahead of print. Proceeds from the books will help fund a music project in Lebanon for Syrian refugee children.

Make FoundationWhat Is Home? – Art Project
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I Know A Place

I Know A Place

There was a boy looking for a place
A place where wishes, wishes come true

I know a place where all wishes do come true
It’s where the stars, they all shine down for you
It’s where all magic come alive at night
It’s where all stars they shine bright, at the dawn of night

For me and you, for me and you
Wishes come true for me, and you

I know people who want this
I know children who need this
I know one thing and it is wishes can come true
I know the sky is green and the grass is blue

For me and you, for me and you
Wishes come true for me, and you

I know a boy who wants to see real dreams
He wants the war to stop and freeze


Fintan Spencer
Violin: Anna Coulman, Alice Richards
Flute: Evie Ashby, Frida Keenan
Guitar: Caterina Moreno
Double Bass: Michel Alkhouri
Singers: Ella Moemai, Naia Alkhouri

Music & lyrics by: Naia Alkhouri

Make FoundationI Know A Place
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The People You Knew

The People You Knew

Life started out well, but then we had to move from here
Never settle down, I can’t wait to get out of here
I wanna go back home, where everything was before, the war, the war

Winds filled with spirits, filling my heart with sadness
My heart tumbling down, trying to get it back up
I wanna go back home, where everything was before, the war, the war

You know I used to be glad, but now it’s turned into sad and the world you once had,
Well now it’s completely mad, and the people you knew, they blew it ..


Keyboard: Ella Moemai,
Violin: Anna Coulman, Alice Richards
Flute: Evie Ashby, Frida Keenan
Guitar: Caterina Moreno
Drum: Alex Phelps
Saxophone: Naia Alkhouri
Singers: Ella Moemai, Naia Alkhouri

Music & lyrics by: Anna Coulman, Alice Richards, Evie Ashby, Frida Keenan, Caterina Moreno, Alex Phelps, Ella Moemai, Naia Alkhouri

Make FoundationThe People You Knew
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Six months in……..

It’s nearly 6 months since Make Foundation launched its website and set out on its first project. A good time to reflect on where we started and what we’ve built with our wonderful project participants, their families, our creative volunteers, partners and supporters, many who send encouragement and love from afar, even from Syria.

The Just Want Home video project was the catalyst behind Make Foundation, but community support and inspirational stories brought it to life.

One such inspiration was the haunting story of Fatima, a 19-year-old Syrian refugee, widow and mother of three who found hope through photography. Encouraged and guided by photojournalist Brendan Bannon, Fatima channeled her grief and was able to imagine a future beyond her loss. Projects Brendon has facilitated, such as Do You See What I See? demonstrate the profound power a creative process has to move those suffering from the experience of war beyond their internal trauma.

Helping other young Syrians find their voice through art, music and technology programmes is Make Foundation’s mission. We’re fundraising for such programmes by staging engaging, creative projects in our own communities.These projects raise awareness of the plight of Syrian refugee children and their families; they also produce something quite special for their participants.


Our first project, Just Want Home – Wellington, was an intense learning experience for all involved. The students produced four songs and an instrumental piece which they performed publicly and recorded at the Surgery Studio, Wellington. The project’s fundraising concert and participation in Capital E’s Winter Wonderland event raised over $2000 for a similar project to take place in Lebanon for Syrian refugee children. The experience was rewarding for everyone who took part and supported the project.

chorusWe’ve staged five workshops in art, music and IT with trainee art therapist Mary-Grace Williams, musicians Alan Burden, Tim  Barrie and Liz Merton, as well as IT gurus Ibrahim Raouf-Morton and Tim Davies-Colley from e-learning Porirua. The workshops were an opportunity to; explore the concept of home from a new and safe perspective, or be part of a crowd-songwriting and performance’ project, or learn about Google Apps.

So what’s next?

A fundraising art project at Island Bay school, Wellington is scheduled for March. Some 125 students are taking part, a team of talented volunteers is facilitating and The Learning Connexion is generously supporting with art supplies.

A film that questions What Is Home? is in post-production and our creative community of supporters, participants and volunteers is growing with more collaborative projects in coding, music and art in the mix.

Donations in the form of creative tools are also growing – a keyboard from one of our generous volunteers and a DSLR camera from Canon New Zealand, so we can show you What We See, a beautiful gift that honours the spark of an idea that came from Fatima’s story.

Just Want Home – Refugee Camp Lebanon is also taking shape. Our Beirut project co-ordinator has sourced a venue and is currently putting a team together of musicians and volunteers ahead of inviting Syrian refugee children to participate. We’ll update details as they are finalised before the project starts. 

At a recent donor’s conference in London, world leaders pledged billions in vital aid for Syrian refugees. However, the 5-year war has no end in sight and people continue to suffer each day as a result of it.

We are small, but our mission is big and shared by many. So let’s make a foundation and build for those most in need of a hopeful vision.  

Make FoundationSix months in……..
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Tech connection

This week Google announced it’s donating $5.3 million towards online access for refugees in Germany.

The tech giant’s charitable arm,, is partnering with NetHope to launch Project Reconnect, an initiative that will supply 25,000 Chromebooks to nonprofit organisations, so that refugees can access education and other online resources.

Make Foundation knows how vital technology is in supporting refugees learn a new host language and other skills they need to work, study and assimilate into their new environment. Late last year we teamed up with e-Learning, Porirua to co-host a Google Apps workshop for Wellington’s newly arrived Syrian refugee community.

Red Cross staff and volunteers helped transport participants from Wellington to Porirua. This generous support meant 24 people were able to take part in the day’s learning and community gathering.

ibrahim-and-student copytim-on-google-hangouts copy

For many, it was their first encounter with Google Apps, so the facilitators, e-Learning’s tech gurus Ibrahim Raouf-Morton and Tim Davies-Colley, focused on demonstrating useful apps to support daily life such as Gmail, Maps, Hangouts.


17-year-old Katia Restom said she really enjoyed the workshop and got a lot out of it.

For me it was an opportunity to consolidate the knowledge I already had and try out apps I hadn’t explored yet. For other people like my mum and dad, it was a really good introduction to apps that can help them build confidence in their new environment.

And what Syrian gathering would be complete without a shared meal? There was plenty for everyone and the cleaning up offered another opportunity to highlight the inclusive nature of Kiwi kitchens where all are welcome to participate!

washing-dishes copy

Make FoundationTech connection
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I open my eyes
I see the sky
Filled with light

I remember the flower
When they use to bloom
The old house too

I hold you near
I hold you tight
It’s a long journey ahead

I do this for you
To live a free life
To have a peaceful life

I’m sorry if I fail
The boat is too small
Please forgive me

The warm air I feel
The spring is very near
I remember your smile


Piano: Aiden Antonio, Max Teusse, Leo Kuper, Fintan Spencer, Vincent Da Col
Drums:Torie Keating, Gianpasquale Moreno, Alex Phelps, Jackson Hay
Guitar: Alex Esposito, Caterina Moreno
Flute: Evie Ashby, Frida Keenan
Violin: Anna Coulman, Alice Richards, Ella Cessford
Recorder: Isla Richards
Trombone: Luka Alkhouri
Alto Saxophone: Naia Alkhouri
Singers: Aeneas O’Sullivan, Alyssa Da Col, Ella Moemai, Alex Fox, Libareed Khidershahian 

Music by: Aiden Antonio, Leo Kuper, Max Teusse, Luka Alkhouri
Lyrics by: Ella Cessford, Isla Richards, Alyssa Da Col, Alice Fox
Edited by: Michel Alkhouri

Make FoundationDarling
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Supporting Syria

FishHead Magazine have published a story on newly formed charity Make Foundation. This Christmas Capital E are supporting their work, and staff member Pippa Drakeford talks to them about who they are and what they do.

Syria’s civil war has sparked a wild passion for support in Wellington by newly formed charity, Make Foundation. Michel (dad) and Naia (daughter, aged 12) Alkhouri are a part of this small network dedicated to bringing music, technology and art projects to refugee communities displaced by Syria’s civil war.

Formed only a few months ago, the organisation has already completed their first project with St Francis de Sales School in Island Bay, Wellington. The project was a collaborative music and songwriting workshop, which culminated in a fundraising concert for a similar project to be delivered to Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Michel, Co-founder of Make Foundation, says his motivation to form the charity came from his personal connection to Syria.

It was created with a desire to do something positive for this community. It was a very personal drive on behalf of myself and my wife. I’m from Syria and a lot of my family left or fled Syria and this has been our response to the crisis.

For 6 years, Michel has lived in Wellington with his family after studying, performing and teaching music in France and the UK.

My immediate family including my mum had to flee Syria. I’ve got three sisters, two have lived outside of Syria in Sweden and Holland for many years. One was still living in Syria with her family, but had to leave. Many of my friends have left and other family members like my cousins have left. We’re scattered everywhere.

As Youth Coordinator for Make Foundation, Michel’s daughter Naia provides support for her peers and parents with encouragement.

I wanted to be part of the team and support my parents when they formed their charity. They thought it’d be great to have a youth perspective especially since the charity’s main focus is to make creative workshops for youth.

Naia sleeps, breaths and eats music. Playing over three instruments, singing and making her own artwork, Naia looks forward to busking in the streets of Wellington.

When you’re being creative you express yourself and by doing that you can learn more about yourself and you can develop more skills and talents and communicate with others.

After hearing of the project Capital E, located on 4 Queens Wharf is supporting Make Foundation’s work over the period of Christmas. Advent calendars revealing stories of Wellington will be sold for $15 per calendar, where 100% of all profits are given to the charity.

Make Foundation is very honoured that Capital E has chosen us to be their Christmas charity. We are going to perform our  Just Want Home – Wellington concert programme, which includes songs written by 24 participants from St Francis de Sales School on Saturday 12 December outside Capital E. The aim is to grow. We have a plan to do more projects in collaboration with schools in Wellington. These projects will culminate with fundraising events to support similar projects for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon.


Info about Capital E

Written by Pippa Drakeford Marketing Coordinator & Publicist Capital E, sourced from FishHead Magazine


Make FoundationSupporting Syria
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Winter Wonderland Festival

Capital E, Wellington’s creative hub for kids, is kindly supporting Make Foundation’s projects this Christmas through the hosting of

workshops and selling of advent calendars. Make Foundation’s concert programme from the ‘Just Want Home – Wellington’ project

features in a Scandinavian Christmas Festival taking place on:

Date: Saturday 12 December

WhereCapital E Central, Queens Wharf, Wellingtonwinter-wonderland copy

Time: 12pm-2.30pm

The programme features songs written by the project’s 24

participants, all students from St Francis de Sales School.

As well as performances on Capital E’s festival stage,

there will be craft stalls, games and food trucks,

so come along if you’re in town and join in the fun.

The following weekend Make Foundation is hosting

three workshops based on the theme, ‘What Is Home?

Here are the details and times:

Musicians: Michel Alkhouri, Alan Burden, Tim Barrie, Liz Merton

A trainee art therapist: Mary G William

Date: Saturday 19 December

WhereCapital E Central, Queens Wharf, Wellington

Crowdsongwriting – Time: 10pm-11am

Syrian Music – Time: 11:30pm-12.30pm

Drawing Workshop (AGE 6+) Time: 1:30pm-2:30pm

Thank you Capital E. We are very honoured and grateful for your generous support to our projects and vision.


Merry Christmas!


Make FoundationWinter Wonderland Festival
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Make Foundation’s Story


Find out how Make Foundation’s first project, ‘Just Want Home – Wellington’ inspired its young participants and raised money towards a similar project for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon.



Make FoundationMake Foundation’s Story
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