gift card reading 'Spread Joy' Looking for holiday gifts? Give the gift of giving with a GlobalGiving gift card! Shop Gift Cards

Help Syrian Refugees to Help Themselves

by Near East Foundation (NEF) Vetted since 2008 Site Visit Verified
Help Syrian Refugees to Help Themselves
Help Syrian Refugees to Help Themselves
Help Syrian Refugees to Help Themselves
Help Syrian Refugees to Help Themselves
Help Syrian Refugees to Help Themselves
Help Syrian Refugees to Help Themselves
Help Syrian Refugees to Help Themselves
Help Syrian Refugees to Help Themselves
Help Syrian Refugees to Help Themselves
Help Syrian Refugees to Help Themselves
Help Syrian Refugees to Help Themselves
Help Syrian Refugees to Help Themselves
Rashedeh in her tailoring shop
Rashedeh in her tailoring shop

When Alzheimer’s rendered her father unable to care for himself, Rashedeh left her job as a seamstress to be his full-time caregiver. After his passing a few years ago, Rashedeh was devastated by the loss, and felt lost about how to shape the next phase of her life. Logistically, she knew that the minimal government assistance they were receiving would be discontinued, and she needed to do something to provide for her family.

Rashedeh, a Palestinian Jordanian, grew up and still resides in a predominantly Palestinian settlement near the city of Irbid. She lives with her sister and niece and is their sole provider since the death of their brother a number of years back. Rashedeh started out as a seamstress when she was just a child to support the household and became incredibly skilled. She continued the work for thirty years, until her father became ill. Throughout those years, she experienced low pay and poor working conditions, enduring extremely long days without breaks. Resentful of this mistreatment by employers, Rashedeh hesitated to return to a tailoring operation following her father’s death.

DSC_6738-2

It was Rashedeh’s sister that told her about NEF’s Siraj Center, which is walking distance from her home. This Siraj Center is one of four hubs that NEF has established in Jordan to provide refugees and vulnerable Jordanians with access to training, counseling, and critical information to find jobs, start businesses, and improve their physical and mental well-being. Rashedeh’s family encouraged her to go to the Center to boost her spirits and see what opportunities might be available.

After her first visit, Rashedeh learned that she qualified to participate in NEF’s business development training. Having only attended school until the seventh grade, Rashedeh cannot read or write well, so a friend was invited to accompany her and help her through the training. With the knowledge she gained, Rashedeh developed a comprehensive plan for a tailoring business, which was quickly approved to receive a project grant for 650 JOD (915 USD) to get started. She purchased two types of sewing machines to get established, and now says she feels confident in her ability to deal with customers, register her business, market her services, and calculate pricing and costs.

Already having a reputation as a skilled seamstress in her community, Rashedeh developed a client-base quickly, offering a full spectrum of services including tailoring, repurposing, mending, and producing original designs. She has become known for making yanis, a popular prayer dresses for youth, which is now sought out by many clients. 

With the steady increase in clients, Rashedeh has been able to hire a couple of family members to help her meet demand. Having worked in many poorly run sewing shops, Rashedeh stresses the importance of providing a happy and healthy working environment so her employees “enjoy coming to work every day.”

IMG_2136-2

Because of the progress she’s made with establishing her business, Rashedeh was selected to participate in NEF’s advanced business development training, after which she received another 160 JOD (225 USD) to support its continued growth. With these additional funds, she made simple but valuable investments in supplies like fabric (including wool to prepare winter clothes), better sewing cutters, and lamps to improve the lighting in the sewing room. 

Rashedeh is now making more than 300 JOD (423 USD) per month, which covers her expenses and leaves her with 100 JOD (141 USD) per month for savings. She feels that she now has a clear vision for the future and hopes to eventually expand to a larger working space, as well as produce more original clothing designs for weddings and other formal events. 

Rashedeh revealed that her participation in NEF’s project gave her a sense of direction and purpose during a very difficult time in her life. She says she feels productive every day, confident in her abilities, and less stressed because she earns a good income and can “manage my own time and ideas.” She loves her busy life and what she does and says, “when I think of NEF, I smile.”

While NEF was visiting with Rashedeh, two of her clients came to pick up their orders who have also attended NEF’s business development training at the local Siraj Center after hearing about it from Rashedeh. They have both gone on to launch businesses as well (one selling birds, and the other also does tailoring.)

Links:

DSC_6147_edit

A large craft area now consumes the family room in Asma’s home. The table is cluttered with colorful fabrics, threads, candles, and patterns and drawing for new designs. Asma carefully crafts her newest creation, while her children prepare for their next trip to the local bazaar. By all accounts, Asma’s life looks happily busy and secure—but it’s been a difficult road to get to this point.

Asma grew up in the outskirts of Amman, married young, and gave birth to five children in quick succession: three boys and two girls. Life as she knew it changed dramatically when her husband unexpectedly passed away and Asma found herself entirely responsible for providing for five children. They had accumulated little to no savings and with only having a 10th-grade education Asma felt at a loss as to how she could support her family. To meet immediate needs, Asma took out a loan but found that she was only qualified to receive 200 JOD – her rent alone was 175 JOD. If her family were to safely survive their deteriorating situation, Asma knew she needed to find a way to earn a steady income.

Asma always had a special talent for creating toys for her children out of old or broken items around the house so thought why not turn this skill into an income. Asma immediately started to test her abilities—challenging herself to repurpose old items not only into toys but also into new household trinkets and accessories.

While her products improved, Asma still lacked the knowledge and guidance on how to turn her creations into a profitable business. After seeking help from the Ministry of Development in Jordan, Asma was referred to one of NEF’s Siraj Centers near her home and qualified to attend a business development training there.

On the first day of the training, she decided to bring some of her merchandise so she could showcase her business idea and test her products. The other women at NEF’s Siraj Center were so impressed that she actually ended up selling everything she brought that day. Asma felt encouraged by their warmth and support and felt she had finally found a place that would help her turn her life around.

With help from the training, Asma developed a formal business plan and was awarded a cash grant to help her buy the supplies she needed to improve the quality and increase the number of her products. She described NEF’s training as “the starting point of her life.” She went on to explain that through the training she was able to learn how to correctly price her items (taking into account the cost of her raw materials, time, and transportation to and from the bazaars) and deal with customers. Of equal importance to her was the sense of community she gained by being connected to such an encouraging group of women. She said that they continue to keep in touch, provide each other with support, and learn from one another.

Now remarried, Asma shares how supportive her family is of her business. Her eldest shared his pride in what his mother has accomplished saying that they have seen how hard she has worked to provide for them all these years which is why they want to support her work as much as they can. All of Asma’s children join her at each bazaar or craft festival she attends, helping her deal with customers and set up her display. Another one of her sons commented on how much he has learned about running a business from watching Asma, saying when he is old enough, he would like to take business classes like his mother took.

In the future, Asma hopes to expand by opening her own shop. She described NEF as a “shining star” that presented itself to her when she was most in need of help and went on to say, “I now am truly happy because I am financially secure and self-reliant.”

Because of the gratitude, Asma feels for being able to turn her life around, she now makes time for her family to do voluntary work so they can give back and provide hope to families who are struggling.

Thank you for your continued support of our work!

Iman and Ahmed in front of their Falafel stand
Iman and Ahmed in front of their Falafel stand

These days, Iman and her husband Ahmed’s days are off to a busy start with a business to run and a family to take care of. Shortly after rising Ahmed heads to their falafel stand to start preparations for the day. The kiosk is located within the informal tented settlement in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon where they have resided since fleeing their home in Ghouta, Syria. Iman gets to work on tending to the children and their home. Once the kids are settled she heads to the kiosk to meet Ahmed where they get to work chopping, grinding, and seasoning their homemade falafel and kabobs for the lunch rush. Iman makes the falafel, Ahmed grills the kabobs. Right now, life is manageable, peaceful, even hopeful.

This is a major departure from the chaos and uncertainty Iman and Ahmed felt after being forced to leave their home in Syria and arriving in Lebanon with their four children in 2012. Their fifth child was born in the camp after they resettled. They could find no work after they arrived. Ahmed was badly injured due to enduring shrapnel in his leg from a bomb and Iman had severe back problems that greatly disabled her mobility. During this time Iman shared that the other women in the camp banded together to help her family, explaining that they all take care of one another and it is very much like an extended family. Also, during this time, the family racked up around $1,500 in debt, a source of great stress for both Iman and Ahmed. Anything outside the bare minimum for the children was out of the question.

When Iman was approached with the opportunity to join NEF’s livelihoods support program, Ahmed was skeptical. As they often do, project staff invited him to sit in on the first business development training so he could see that it was legitimate and safe for his wife to attend. During the trainings Iman was having extreme problems with back and was considering discontinuing the classes but NEF’s Siraj Center made special accommodations for transport to the classes. Iman explains that the training was very enjoyable for her. Even with the pain she was experiencing, she insisted on going because she says, “It made me feel good to be there learning new things and relating to the other women.” She says it raised her spirits and was a relief from the difficulties she was facing at home at that time. She said also that she didn’t even know about the $850 project grant in the beginning – she just felt that the training and coaching was building her character and made her feel like a more complete person.  

Since starting their falafel stand, Iman and Ahmed have substantially paid down their debt. Their 13-year-old daughter, Bayan, says before the business Ahmed was often angry and stressed because of his inability to work and provide for the family but since it has been up and running, the household is much more positive, everyone is less stressed. Iman says the kids were smiling for the first time in a long time and they had hope.

Beyond providing the household income, the kiosk has also helped them meet their neighbors. Iman explained that it feels great to interact with the people in their community. The kiosk has become a hub for more than just food but also for friendship, laughter and healing.

Iman preparing falafel
Iman preparing falafel
Iman with her youngest daughter Joumana
Iman with her youngest daughter Joumana

Links:

“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.

 

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
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Crowley Andrea
Syracuse, NY United States
$26,613 raised of $100,000 goal
 
132 donations
$73,387 to go
Donate Now
lock
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.