Aug 31, 2017

Long-term solutions to the refugee crisis

As conflict in Syria and Iraq displaces thousands, NEF continues to address the protracted refugee crisis in Jordan and Lebanon. Humanitarian aid remains largely focused on immediate and short-term needs, providing little to no support for the long-term impact this crisis will have on affected communities.

With an eye toward the future, NEF is providing solutions that will support both the displaced and affected host communities through inclusive opportunities that enable conflict-affected individuals to earn a living and build resilience against future shocks. In practice, this includes strengthening the capacity of both refugee and host communities to recover from crisis and emerge from poverty through business and economic development, employability training, vocational training, financial literacy and financial/start-up assistance, social networking, and on-going mentoring and coaching for new entrepreneurs. As both women and youth are known to be the most vulnerable during times of conflict, NEF’s work in both Jordan and Lebanon has a focus on adolescents and women headed households.

NEF partners with local civil society organizations (CSOs) to provide these and other services at hubs known as Siraj Centers. In Arabic, the word “Siraj” means lantern—with the connotation of a beacon of light and hope. The aptly named centers offer individuals a safe environment to receive training, information, guidance, and coordinated referrals to other service providers.

NEF in Jordan

Strengthening economic and social resilience
Recent activities in Jordan include multiple four-day business development trainings for 455 participants in four areas of Jordan—South Amman, East Amman, Irbid, and Zarqa. A total of 64 workshops have been held in these four locations since March of 2017. The goal of these trainings is to support business creation and income generation, which will positively contribute to the local economy.

Capacity Building
To establish a sustainable framework for continued livelihoods efforts supported by the local community, NEF held an “Ideation and Innovation” workshop to establish a network of local “Master Trainers.” In May, 24 Master Trainers (of Jordanian, Iraqi, and Syrian nationalities) received the necessary training to train others on how to transform their ideas into tangible businesses, perform strategic planning, implement best business practices, and monitor their business’ progress.

Youth Training
Limited opportunities, isolation, and tension contribute to a sense of despair and hopelessness among  refugees and poor Jordanians. To address this, NEF trained 334 adolescents (52 Iraqis, 79 Jordanians, and 203 Syrians) in financial literacy tailored toward supporting self-development through financial management skills. The training sessions also strive to contribute to social interaction and harmony between Jordanians and Iraqi and Syrian refugees, thereby promoting mutual respect and social cohesion.

To date NEF’s efforts in Jordan have directly benefited 7,960 refugees and Jordanians and indirectly benefitted the lives of 39,800.

Last month, a bazaar was held in Zarqa where project participants had the opportunity to display and sell their products.

NEF in Lebanon

Strengthening economic and social resilience
NEF and its partners have conducted 43 business development trainings for over 1000 Lebanese and Syrian men and women. Additional training sessions covering life skills such as household budgeting and savings were also provided. 209 grant recipients have commenced business operations, either through providing services or selling products.

Vocational Training
Over 370 Lebanese and Syrians received vocational training (300 women, 70 men) related to the type of business plan they had selected. Vocational training topics spanned such industries as food production, tailoring, hairdressing, aesthetics and make-up, book keeping, handicrafts. 

Capacity Building
NEF has helped to increase the capacity of 34 civil society organizations (CSOs) to provide high quality and expanded services. Staff members from each CSO are now able to conduct business development trainings, business coaching, business networking, as well as financial literacy training for adolescents. Additionally, CSO’s have improved their ability to respond to protection incidents and provide appropriate referrals. In May, NEF met with CSO staff members and volunteers to significantly improve and systemize the process of participant data collection and monitoring participant’s progress—this effort will make it possible for NEF and its partners determine the success rate of these services, and make adjustments for improvements as needed.

Khayriye was one of the first few women trained in the Minieh center. She has now purchased a sewing machine and completed a six-day vocational training on tailoring. Khayriye thanked NEF and Hadatha saying, “This project was a great opportunity for me.”

To date, NEF’s efforts in Lebanon have directly benefited 3,050 refugees and Lebanese and indirectly benefitted the lives of 12,200.

Jul 17, 2017

How I Turned My Life Around

A first-hand account from a woman in Armenia who wished to remain anonymous.

Just one year ago I had a very different life. I had no profession and my relatives did not consider my opinion in family-related decisions, I felt unfulfilled and very unhappy. Only one year has passed, and now I have a completely different life.

I had always dreamed of receiving a good education, but my parents did not support this ambition because they believed that a woman’s happiness and purpose in life comes from getting married. Sadly, my husband thought the same way, so I never received the support and encouragement I needed to pursue my dream. This made me unhappy and vulnerable to mistreatment from my parents, husband, and environment.

In 2015, I learned about a project named “Advancing gender equality and the rights of survivors of gender-based violence in Armenia’’ being implemented in Lori region by the Near East Foundation. The project provides an opportunity for vulnerable women to receive vocational training in the desired field and to start their own business. I couldn’t believe coming across such an opportunity, and knew that this would my chance to pursue my dream and make something of myself. 

Through the project, I attended vocational training to become a beautician at the best beauty salon in Vanadzor. In the beginning, I did not want to take the risk of developing a business plan and did not imagine that I would ever be able to start my own business. After some months of attending trainings my confidence grew, and I realised that I did want to have my business. To my amazement, my business plan was chosen by the selection committee and I received a grant to buy items to start my own at-home salon! 

After opening my salon, day by day the numbers of clients increased – as did my income. After only a few months, I knew that my profession would provide me with a reliable income. At the same time, another beauty salon—impressed by my skills and business knowledge—incited me to work part-time in their salon.

My husband and my extended family are much more supportive of me now. Having my own business gave me a confidence I didn’t know I could have—I feel like a brand-new woman! I feel so happy and proud that I could take control and improve my life for the better.

Thank you for continueing to make stories like this possible!

Jun 2, 2017

Economically empowering refugees and vulnerable Lebanese families

Facing extreme poverty, many refugees seek work despite restrictions in the countries they now reside, engaging primarily in informal, low-wage and short-term manual labor with high risk of exploitation. Additionally, poverty among Lebanese increased 61 percent since 2011. Refugees are widely viewed as the cause of declining wages, joblessness, and poor working conditions in Lebanon. Like refugees, poor Lebanese work in informal and temporary jobs; a third of Lebanese youth are unemployed.

Households experience weak and irregular income, struggle to manage expenses, and engage in harmful coping strategies. Worsening conditions and unequal access to assistance fuel refugee and host community tensions.

The primary goal of NEF's work in Lebanon is to reduce the vulnerability of refugee and Lebanese households and increase access of individuals to livelihoods information, skill building resources, and referrals. Lebanese and refugees rank employment and income-generation as their highest priorities. They require safe opportunities to build skills and generate income. This project answers that need with community-based livelihood support hubs, life and technical skills training, and support to home-based productive activities.

In the past five months alone the NEF team in Lebanon, along with our project partners, have conducted the following activities in the areas of Minieh, Berqayel, and Taanayel as part of our project to help economically empower Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese families. Between community outreach events, training of trainers sessions, business development trainings, awareness and protection sessions, and branding and establishment of NEF's Siraj Centers (safe spaces for learning and training), it has been an enormous undertaking. 

  • 6 community outreach events in 3 locations with families and community leaders 
  • 12 business development trainings 
  • 11 awareness sessions with women designed to improve their understanding of their rights, increase their economic independence and decision-making capacities, and build their awareness on issues pertaining to survivors of gender-based violence
  • 14 rigorous training-of-trainers programs to build a sustainable knowledge sharing infrastructure within the communities we are working in
  • a 6-day vocational training for women who submitted business plans relating to agriculture and food businesses 

As you can see the great work of NEF’s field teams continues and NEF as an organization is reaching more and more people in need. Thank you for your continued support!


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