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"A golden opportunity" - meet the Syrian entrepreneurs building businesses and new futures for themselves
The salon buzzes with conversation, a happy customer is getting makeup professionally applied in a thriving new business in Northern Syria. As the Syrian conflict enters its 13th year, entrepreneurs are building new businesses and futures for themselves amidst the rubble.
Hasa* opens her salon doors to Concern and tells us that she is a young widow; she lost her husband during the conflict, leaving her to support their young daughter and other family members.
Life changed for her when she heard about Concern’s Livelihoods programme, which has been running in Northern Syria since 2016, and provides training in areas such as hairdressing, carpet weaving, computer/smart phone maintenance and electric motor rewiring.
The programme, which receives humanitarian funding from the European Union, has four centres, where participants train in their chosen subjects, as well as learn life and business skills – such as customer service, time management and how to make a business plan.
After the training, graduates can then apply for grants - worth an average US$600 - to help fund their new business.
“Dream come true”
Hasa and another hair and makeup artist worked to open the business together, splitting the cost of rent and equipment.
She told Concern: “All my life, I have dreamed of becoming a stylist in the future, but the situation was very difficult for me.
When I saw the Livelihoods programme advertisement from Concern on Facebook, I registered and I got a golden opportunity for my dream to come true.
“I am so happy to get my own shop, and to have contact more with other people; at the same time I’m happy I can depend on myself to secure an income for myself and my daughter.”
She said that as well as providing financial security for her family, Hasa feels that her confidence has been boosted by taking part in the programme.
“When I started the course and went to the centre for the first time, I had no confidence in myself. During the course in the professional centre, we learned life skills courses as well. So, day after day, I gained more confidence in myself.
“At first I was so shy, but after two or three sessions, I felt comfortable and now I can talk to groups, for example."
“Now I can depend on myself”
Chadi is another graduate we met, who now runs a business maintaining and repairing mobile phones. He said that he is married with two young children and before learning his trade through Concern’s Livelihoods programme, he was worried for his family’s financial wellbeing as work wasn't always available.
“Before this I had no job, so every week or every month I worked in in different fields just to get some money for life... now I have learned how to fix and do the mobile maintenance and I have confidence in myself that I can fix the mobiles and now I can depend on myself as well.
Before if I got money - okay, I could purchase some food but if I didn't get money, I could not purchase it, so it was difficult situation before I got this opportunity.”
While Chadi is happy to be working for himself and growing his business, he is ambitious and one day hopes to own his own shop and hire employees.
“I am happy because part of my dream has come true but I didn't complete my dream totally. I am renting this table in the shop and working on this table but to complete my dream one day I want my own shop.
“Livelihoods is very useful for the young people here in Syria because a lot of people have no jobs, nothing to do and they want to learn, but they have no money to follow a course to learn how to do this business.
“So, Concern offered this opportunity, we learned how to do something and at the end they gave us a grant to open our business. Today, the young people if they want to follow course, the cost is at least $200 and nobody can pay this amount if he has a wife or kids, so it's very difficult. But Concern offered this opportunity for a lot of young people here.”
*Names have been changed