Work, pastries, and coffee at Bait Al Dyafa
“I didn’t have anyone by my side. I didn’t have enough money to enrol my kids in university. I never had emotional support to overcome challenging moments in life. I felt like I was letting my children down. But now, all of that has changed.”
Maysoon struggled to make ends meet, being the sole economic provider for her seven children. In order to protect her children from a deteriorating quality of life, she was determined not to let this be a defining struggle.
In the winter of 2018, she rented a small property in the old city of Nablus with the hope of turning it into a café. Her dream was to operate her own business and earn a stable income. When she rented the property, she realised it needed renovating since the doors and the windows were broken, the floor was unstable and there was no handrail for the stairs. Her goal was to work from home, selling pastries and sweets until she had enough money to buy kitchen supplies and hire professionals to renovate the café.
“How was I supposed to support my 7 children?”
Maysoon understood the risk that renting this property conveyed for her and her family. In the summer of 2019, she realised that she was still very far away from achieving her goal. Maysoon was struggling to come to terms with being unable to register her daughter in university due to the tuition costs. She got in touch with Yusra Sama’neh, the case manager at TYO, to take part in the Mental Health Program.
This is something that’s often neglected in Palestine- the need for access to mental health services. Lone parents with unstable incomes and a large family are often in desperate need of emotional support. However, due to misconceptions regarding the nature of mental health disorders, seeking professional help is uncommon. Maysoon was brave enough to ask for help.
“I realised I needed psychological support. I was positive I could make it but it would take me 2 to 3 years to open the café. How was I supposed to support my seven children until I managed to open the café and start making a profit?” Maysoon said.
Also weighing on Maysoon’s mind was the fact that she did not want to resort to other people for help. However, the situation she found herself in gave her no other option. Maysoon was not aware of TYO’s entrepreneurship initiatives and solely asked for psychological support. Consequently, Amal, a social worker at TYO, visited Maysoon and began carrying out regular counselling sessions with her and her family. Yusra visited the café and realised the potential this business had.
“Maysoon was determined to make this project come true. It takes courage to take the leap but she did it anyway.” Yusra explained. “I believe in giving women the resources they need to stand on their own and become economically independent. Thus, I did everything in my hands to make her dream become a reality.”
In July 2019, Yusra registered Maysoon to receive entrepreneurship advice and training from TYO in order to support the start of her business. With the assistance of the Social Development Ministry and UNRWA, TYO’s contracted engineers completely renovated Maysoon’s café in the space of one month. The priority was given to fixing the doors and windows due to security concerns. Consequently, the floor was fixed and countertops and cabinets were provided for the kitchen area. The Social Development Ministry then provided Maysoon with kitchen supplies, along with a freezer and a dough machine.
“These are tears of happiness, tears of appreciation.”
The opening of the café took place on the 26 of August 2019, two years before what had been scheduled initially. For the past three months, Maysoon has been working in her café from 6am to 5pm- cooking pastries, preparing the upstairs area for customers and making home deliveries. All her hard work has paid off and she has managed to make enough profit to enrol her daughter in university, something she had not been able to do during the summer.
“These are tears of happiness, tears of appreciation since I can’t actually express how grateful I feel towards Yusra and TYO,” she said, “I no longer need to ask my neighbour for money. I am solely dependent on myself and I am constantly moving forward.”
Maysoon is currently aiming to expand her family business in two ways. Firstly, she wishes to hire employees outside her family, thus improving the economic situation of other families in her community. Secondly, she aspires to make enough money to buy an electric bike so her son can make food deliveries in an environmentally friendly manner.
“I am so thankful to Yusra for coming into my world and telling me- I am with you, you’re not alone,” Maysoon explains. “No one has ever supported me like Yusra, she was like a waterfall, streaming with so much giving.”
Maysoon has proven to be an incredibly brave, independent woman who was not afraid to face the risks and follow her dream. She was also capable of asking for psychological support, contributing to breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health in Palestine. Maysoon has become a role model for her kids and other women in her community.
“It’s only been three months since we opened the café but my life has changed for the better. My children are in university, I can pay the bills, and most importantly, my kids look up to me, they’re proud of me. I will be forever grateful.”
Maysoon’s café is called the `House of Hospitality´(in Arabic: Bait Al Dyafa). This is the upstairs area where students can study for their exams, have a coffee or order a delicious piece of cake.
Maysoon is incredibly media savvy and promotes her café through Facebook and Instagram.