Help Syrian Refugees to Help Themselves

by Near East Foundation (NEF)

“It was a bad situation, to see your home fully destroyed after you had been living in it for almost 16 years; it is an extremely difficult feeling. But then you just think okay, aside from your health and the health of your children you can get through anything.”

Asma and her family are from Homs, Syria. After their home was destroyed in 2013, she, her husband, and their three children fled to Jordan where they now reside. 

Today, she and her family are financially stable and Asma is operating a small cooking business. Her prepared meals and catered goods have gained a reputation in her neighborhood and demand for her product has grown, allowing the family to pay down their debts and meet their family’s needs. Asma’s success in starting her business after participating in NEF's program is not surprising when you consider the obstacles that she has overcome to arrive at this point. 

When Asma was just 14, she was the victim of early marriage. Approximately one out of five girls across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are married before the age of 18. Gender inequality, high levels of poverty, and lack of educational opportunities for girls are all among the main drivers of this issue. Asma had her first child, a son, shortly after at the age of 15. The marriage was unhealthy and very brief. After their divorce, her ex-husband would not allow her to take custody of their son, and she was forced to leave him with her now ex-husband. She would not see him again until he was a teenager. 

“I never stopped trying and wanted to continue my life,” Asma explains as the reason why she continued her studies and then worked as a nurse for three years. She then met and married her current husband, and they built a life and a family together. They had a comfortable home and happy life until conflict began to escalate and her community started to experience raids and indiscriminate arrests of citizens. She recalls an instance when her children were sleeping and soldiers forcibly entered their home and searched it without permission; this happened two other times. Her sister was unlawfully arrested for a month, and her brother was also arrested for a brief time. Both reported torture in prison. 

Then, while away visiting her husband’s family, they received the news that there was a raid, and all of the houses in their neighborhood were destroyed. When they returned, their home was gone. They could not even enter the neighborhood to see if any memorabilia items remained because the wreckage from the bombs kept people from entering the area. 

Like the majority of the five million Syrian refugees who seek refuge in neighboring countries, Asma’s family chose not to remain in a refugee camp for more than a couple of days after arriving in Jordan. They moved into a low-income neighborhood in Jordan’s urban sprawl. Although she and her husband found informal work cleaning houses, cars, and cooking for neighbors, they were unable to earn enough to meet the family’s basic needs. Describing this time, Asma said, “The monthly money that my husband was making before was not enough to cover all of the monthly expenses. It ran out the middle of the month.” 

Asma’s neighbors who had been purchasing her prepared meals encouraged her to start her own catering business. Asma explains, “The Jordanian people were very supportive and cooperative,” and added that she feels very safe in Jordan. 

With this encouragement and her husband’s support, Asma pursued her passion for cooking and started a catering business. Through trainings, she learned how to develop a business model, market her products, interact with customers, set prices, and enter into new markets. With the project grant she received at the completion of the program, she purchased a refrigerator for food preservation, giving her as she says, the “push” she needed to get started. 

Asma’s household has seen a 50 percent increase in income from her cooking business. Her customer base continues to grow, and she says that she now needs to invest in additional equipment including a “kubeh” machine (grinder) and another refrigerator to keep up with increasing demand. 

Asma says, “I have a stronger personality now. I want to make sure my product is perfect, unique, and different from the other products in the markets.” She has gained confidence and independence, especially with regard to decision-making on where to spend money, saying, “Now if my kids ask anything from me, I can do it.” 

The family has now started to save some money for the future and emergency expenses which brings Asma and her husband great peace of mind. 

Thank you for your continued to support to make stories like Asma's possible!

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.

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!

 

The U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) awarded the Near East Foundation (NEF) a one-year project grant to continue to scale up its work in Lebanon and another two-year project grant to continue its work in Jordan with refugees and host community members. 

Access to basic services like housing, food, healthcare, and jobs are a significant challenge for both refugees and vulnerable Jordanian and Lebanese families who have to compete over these basic commodities. While humanitarian aid focuses on immediate needs, NEF is pioneering innovative and cost-effective long-term solutions to address these issues—providing families with conditional cash assistance to help place children in education programs, and implementing initiatives to help strengthen families’ economic resilience.

Take Ebtisal, who fled the violence in Syria and came to Jordan in 2012. With a sick husband who was unable to work, Ebtisal found herself immediately searching for work in Jordan. Unable to find a job, she soon was introduced to NEF’s program helping refugees. Through the project she was given cash assistance to help her start her own catering business—where she makes Syrian kebah, a pastry filled with ground lamb, seasoning, and pine nuts, to sell to her clients.

Because of the success Ebtisal’s business was seeing, NEF connected her with the local bazar, which provided an opportunity for her to market her growing business and expand her client base. Ebtisal said that her clients, who are mostly Jordanian, say that her Kebah is delicious, which makes her feel proud of herself. Ebtisal is saving a portion of her profits so that she can soon buy a refrigerator and a larger oven so that she can expand her business and make more of a profit.

Another example comes from Muna, a Jordanian woman who is the primary breadwinner in her house. Before joining NEF’s project, Muna was struggling to make ends meet. She said “the love for my family inspired me to apply to be a part of the [NEF’s] program so I could try to start my own business.”

With the cash assistance she received, Muna opened a children’s clothing business. The small grant had a huge impact on Muna's quality of life. When asked about how her business changed her life, Muna said, “After I received the grant, I felt like I am strong enough to do anything…if someone plans for something, they can achieve it. It is different when you don’t have enough capital to start something compared to when you do. It’s very empowering.”

Thank you for your continued support of NEF's work to make stories like Muna's and Ebtisal's possible!

Muna and Hanadi
Muna and Hanadi

Sticky sweet fingers and laughter fill the kitchens of Muna and Hanadi, two neighbors and Syrian refugees who live in Zarqa, Jordan.

Muna and Hanadi first met when Hanadi moved into the same building as Muna and her family. The two women became more than just good friends—through an NEF networking event Muna and Hanadi soon became business partners.

Both women were housewives before they were forced to leave their hometown of Aleppo in Syria. Hanadi, a mother of three sons and a daughter, fled the violence in 2012 after her house was bombed in a series of airstrikes. Muna, a mother of two sons, fled Syria with her family when the violence destroyed her village.

Like many refugees who were forced to leave Syria, Muna, Hanadi, and their families were financially unstable after resettling in Jordan. They didn’t know anyone who could lend them a helping hand and their husbands, who had served as the main breadwinners, were unable to work as a result of strict labor laws in Jordan.

Many refugee and poor Jordanian families find themselves without good options, and they are forced to resort to harmful coping strategies just to get by. This may include child labor, begging, early marriage, engaging in exploitative work, or taking on extensive debt.

NEF's work in Jordan seeks to offer refugees and vulnerable Jordanians opportunities through business trianings, financial literacy, and start-up grants—options that support participants to attain self-sufficiency and reject strategies that may harm them in the long-run. 

Impressed with Hanadi's cooking skills, Muna asked Hanadi to go into business with her after attending an NEF-business training session together.

Through trainings in business planning and financial literacy and a project grant, Muna and Hanadi started a home-based catering business featuring Syrian pastries.Their kuba, a fried croquette, is a particular favorite among their client-base—which grew after Muna sent her son to school with a tray of kuba. His teacher liked it so much she asked Muna to make it for her. From then on, the reputation of their great service and delicious dishes began to spread by word of mouth.

NEF provided Muna and Hanadi with the tools and skills they needed to generate a stable income to provide for their families. Through their business, they make a profit of about 100 JOD per month ($140), which allows them to purchase necessary household items. They plan to expand their business in the future by buying a refrigerator to help produce more food and provide ready-made meals for clients on-the-go.

“Participating in the project and starting our own business made us feel part of the community because we got to connect with the people here.”

Muna continued, “I feel more confident than ever because our clients trust us.”

Thank you for your continued to support to make stories like Muna's and Hanadi's possible! 

 

About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.

Get Reports via Email

We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.

Organization Information

Near East Foundation (NEF)

Location: Syracuse, NY - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.neareast.org
Project Leader:
Crowley Andrea
Syracuse, NY United States
$18,628 raised of $100,000 goal
 
106 donations
$81,372 to go
Donate Now
Donating through GlobalGiving is safe, secure, and easy with many payment options to choose from. View other ways to donate
Add Project to Favorites

Help raise money for this important cause by creating a personalized fundraising page for this project.

Start a Fundraiser

Learn more about GlobalGiving

Teenage Science Students
Vetting +
Due Diligence

Snorkeler
Our
Impact

Woman Holding a Gift Card
Give
Gift Cards

Young Girl with a Bicycle
GlobalGiving
Guarantee

Sign up for the GlobalGiving Newsletter

WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.