Life as a refugee

Discovering a new path

This story is a part of the "Stories of Creativity and Resilience" book, which is a poignant, personal, and hopeful tale of refugees in Türkiye; a moving account of their dreams and aspirations and a demonstration of their resilience in spite of the adverse circumstances they live in.

Updated 22 Aug 2022

Making new paths possible.

Making new paths possible.

Stories about resilience

For refugees uprooted by war, using their artistic talents and creative skills is a great way to feel included and protected. Through our livelihood interventions, we wanted to give artists, craftsmen and artisans a chance to use their talents to generate income and to support them to develop professionally to demonstrate the transformative power of creativity and craftsmanship.

The Danish Refugee Council’s Economic Recovery programming aims to help refugees establish sustainable sources of income to enable them to live a more dignified life during their displacement. We believe that by supporting them to improve their ability to pursue and achieve sustainable livelihoods, they can minimise their vulnerability to any future shocks related to their displacement.

Our wage and self-employment interventions help build a stronger economic foundation at individual and household levels promoting self-reliance, increasing access to inclusive economic growth and contributing to local integration as a durable solution to displacement.

In our interventions, we also include members of the Turkish host community who have been affected by displacement, pandemic and economic recession.

Growing up in Türkiye

Growing up in Türkiye

These stories represent only a fraction of the large number of socio-economically vulnerable members of the refugee and host communities who need support to access income generation opportunities and achieve self-reliance and resilience. We hope to reach more of them in collaboration with our donors, partners, Turkish government entities, and private sector allies. 

While growing up in Şanlıurfa, Türkiye, Damla watched her mother as she did embroidery and trained others in this skill. She was fascinated by the work her mother and the trainees did and the vibrant colors they used in the embroidery. Yet, she decided to take a different path and study civil engineering since it was considered a more prestigious profession.

After finishing her studies, she realized it was not the right career for her. She was an artistic and creative person, while engineering seemed too constructive and analytical to her. Additionally, engineering job opportunities were scarce, especially for a fresh graduate like her at the time. As a result, she worked in teaching for two years, but the center was closed because of the pandemic in 2020. She was unemployed again and unable to earn an income, but she was sure of one thing: when there is a will, there is a way. 

The love of art

One day, she was buying roses in a flower shop when she noticed that the flower pots were not made of the right materials. The pots were fragile and not suitable for plants that need a large amount of water.

She knew that because she studied construction materials such as steel and cement. In that moment, she had an idea. She has more knowledge than some other pot manufacturers, so it would be good to use that knowledge and produce better quality flower pots.

She could create different designs and explore her love for art. Still, there was a problem: how to begin? She did not have the equipment or the materials needed for this kind of business. Later, she heard about the business development centre run by İnsani Gelişme Vakfı (INGEV) in partnership with the Danish Refugee Council (DRC).

Funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through KFW-German Development Bank, the centre supports entrepreneurs from refugee and host communities with both technical and start-up capital assistance to open their own businesses.

To prepare them to succeed in the Turkish market, the centre provides different types of trainings such as project and finance management, marketing, and Turkish labour law before selecting training graduates with strong business plans to give them start-up grants. 

Helpful guidance

Opening a business sounded like a daunting endeavor to Damla. She never thought of running a business before this moment, but she decided to do it. She was impressed by the quality and content of the trainings. 

“They were very useful,” she says. 

“I learned how to write a business plan, seek sales channels and set up a business in a professional manner. They made me think in a new way since my background is different.”

Afterward, her proposal got accepted and the staff provided her constant technical guidance.

“They were with me in every step I made,” Damla says. 

“Through their counseling, they helped me fill the gaps I had.”

Damla has bigger dreams. She is planning to buy more equipment to expand her business and make it a gift shop.

“INGEV and DRC helped me start a business aligned with my abilities and objectives. My dreams were simple and I never thought that I could be a business owner, but here I am. I know now I am able to do anything.” 

I love this profession! It made me realize what my true my passion is. I enjoy creating high quality artistic products and making people happy. I am now productive and feel very satisfied with myself.

Damla

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