Syria (IOCC) Nariman fled Iraq three years ago with her four sons after her husband was murdered and she no longer felt safe to remain in her homeland. Nariman and her family share the tragic reality of more than one million Iraqi refugees living in Syria. The huge influx of refugees into a country with a population of 22 million has put an enormous strain on Syria's ability to provide basic services such as access to education and health services. Jobs are scarce and Iraqi refugees must rely on savings. As their savings dry up these vulnerable families face poverty and more hardship. The need to be self-sufficient is critical to their survival.
Throughout Syria many creative, intelligent people like Wafa, a single mother with two boys, are also trapped in poverty because they lack access to capital. She used to do simple hairdressing from home with very few clients—mainly her friends and family, but longed to develop her hairstyling skills into a business.
Commerce can make the difference between economic despair and complete financial independence. Through your financial support and a grant from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM), IOCC is empowering destitute entrepreneurs to establish businesses and break free from the cycle of poverty. Working in cooperation with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (GOPA), IOCC provides Iraqi refugees like Nariman and financially strapped Syrians like Wafa with vocational and business training, as well as the start-up capital necessary to open a business.
Both Nariman and Wafa were enrolled in the same program where they met, shared their dreams of opening a salon, and gained the hairstyling skills and business knowledge needed to make their dream of business ownership a reality. Upon completion of the training, Wafa received a financial grant to open Brooke Hair Salon and brought Nariman in as her partner. Their salon is one of 28 successful businesses established to date through the program. The talented entrepreneurs have launched a diverse range of businesses including a gift shop, clothing store for men and women, greenhouse, lighting fixtures store, candle workshop, convenience store, construction materials store, tire store, tailor shop, computer maintenance store, Arabic sweets shop, and auto repair garage. Collectively, the businesses employ over 56 people and directly provide support for dozens of families.
The women find it rewarding to wake up in the morning and go to work in a business that they own. "Thank God that we are busy and we have regular customers," says Wafa. "I am so grateful for our improved financial situation," adds Nariman. "Now I can provide healthy meals and a better education for my children."