Making his way again through beads
Tale of refugees in Türkiye
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.
Artistic talents and creative skills
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.
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.
It is a small workshop not easy to find in Şanlıurfa, Türkiye. You have to enter an old building and go to the basement to find it. The man working in it has a story of determination and the will to help people.
Sammy is a simple man
When he was in Syria, he lived in Aleppo countryside and bought a farm after he finished law school because he loved nature. “People were surprised that I gave up law to live on a farm,” Sammy says. “Courts depress me. I love waking up in the morning in the middle of nature and listening to birds. I was able to make a living through handicrafts such as leather products and prayer beads.”
That was all gone when the war broke out
Sammy had no choice but to flee the war with his family to start a new life in Şanlıurfa, Türkiye. He opened his own leather shop and had a truck for transporting goods between cities. Everything was going well until there was currency fluctuation and all prices went up.
He could no longer afford the expenses of running a leather business, so he sold everything. It was a hard time for him and his family. For a year and a half, he was unemployed. He tried to find different jobs but he was 52 and considered to be “too old” by employers. He felt frustrated but he was still persistent to find a way, and he did.
One day, he met a prayer bead maker. Sammy asked him if he could work for him but the bead maker refused. When the bead maker went to pray, Sammy used that time and fixed some damaged beads. When the man returned, he was impressed by what Sammy did and offered him a job of stringing beads.
The pay was little, but it was better than nothing.
During that time, he improved his bead making and repairing skills. People admired his work and started to ask him to make some for them. The demand was so high that he asked for higher prices to reduce it.
Clients started seeking his products
Surprisingly, people accepted the new prices and more clients started seeking his products. He was capable of having his own workshop but lacked financial capacity for buying the tools and equipment he needed. It was the time when he heard of the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and applied for a business grant.
With funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through KFW-German Development Bank, DRC and implementing partner Orange provided Sammy with a business management training covering basic financial management, marketing, and accounting topics, and based on the merits of his business plan gave him an in-kind grant in the form of materials including a die grinder and a band saw needed for him to set up a bead-making workshop.
DRC’s Productive Asset Support (PAS) is given to skilled refugees so they can establish their own business and generate income. “I was confused about how to start my business, so I was hesitant at first,” he says. “Now, I know how to plan my business in a professional manner.”
Later, Sammy applied for and received PAS top-up support, as part of DRC’s intervention funded by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), aimed at supporting refugee entrepreneurs that have demonstrated the sustainability of their business to expand their operations. Sammy received a driller, a stone engine and an etching set. “I was thrilled to receive those machines,” he says. “I was able to increase my production and hire skilled people to work with me.”
He created his business Facebook page to promote his products and hired a calligrapher who engraved the beads. He showcased prayer beads made of different materials with beautiful designs on social media. “I used to promote my products on my personal account before the training,” he says. “After creating my business page, the demand has significantly increased.” Sammy began attracting clients from Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia. “DRC's assistance was a great help,” he says. “It does not matter how creative and determined you are; you will always need a push by someone. Thanks to this assistance, I have scaled up my small home-based business initiative to start a workshop.”
Sammy does not only want to earn a living and expand his business. He wants to hire people in need such as single mothers and people with disabilities to empower them.
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