“This is my decision” – Naciima found her path as an independent business woman

“This is my decision” – Story of an independent business woman inspires others in Somaliland

Naciima found her way to make her dreams come true while attending to FCA’s Technical and Vocational Education Training.

WHAT DOES an independent businesswoman look like?

Naciima, who recently graduated from Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) programme, is a perfect example. She lives with her family of eleven in Gacan Libaax in Somaliland. They have a very limited income and her father, though he struggles to pay her school fees, has always encouraged her to find something she is passionate about.

“After deciding to drop out from the university, I put my entire focus on the training that I was getting. It was sensational and the most skillful experience I have ever gotten before,” says Naciima, who joined the Finn Church Aid’s TVET program recently.

She got to know about the course from one of her friends who went to the Horn of Africa Voluntary Youth Committee TVET Center. When deciding to apply, she says she felt at peace.

“My dream has always been to design clothes – coming up with ways to make them look fashionable. It was a dream come true when I found out about the training and I immediately joined without consulting my family. However, afterwards I told them about my decision.” 

“Without the training I would not have become the woman I am today”

Naciima says that she gained skills from the tailoring course, including how to start business and practical tailoring skills. During the training, she was inspired by two things. Firstly, the way to come up with new designs and, secondly, the profits she could be make, especially since tailoring skills are in demand the country.

Naciima has become an advocate for TVET and wants to explain the benefits of it and how it leads to profit making.

“Without the training I would not have become the woman I am today – a business woman, an independent woman, and career-oriented individual.”

After graduating from the program, Naciima and the other graduates, received business start-up grants and equipment that helped her to start a business that could also support her family. Her idea was to start a tailoring shop that produces fresh looks in women’s clothing. She knew that the majority of ladies in Somaliland liked to wear tailored clothes and knowing her market helped her come up with her designs.

High hopes for the future

Within the first three months, the business was booming and made a decent profit. She hopes that in future she can support her family even more. At the moment she supports family in other ways than just financially – she makes clothes for her younger siblings. Some of her earning go into servicing her machines but her support for her family motivates her siblings and helps them to believe that they too can start a business and support the family in future.

Naciima is optimistic about the future and dreams of hiring more people for her business to meet the growing demand. This woman, who had waited to be supported by her family, has now become the one who supports them.

“I am able to save the money; average $100–150 in month,” she says. This is what a successful businesswoman looks.

This project is funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland (MFA)


Text and photos: Mohamed Dugoow

Somaliland tailoring students graduate with flair in their homemade gowns

Somaliland tailoring students graduate with flair in their homemade gowns

The students, majority of them women, accepted their qualifications in professional tailoring and garment design.

70 PROUD WOMEN and men graduated from our latest vocational training course in Somaliland in early December. The students, majority of them women, accepted their qualifications in professional tailoring and garment design at a ceremony in Maansoor, as their friends and family watched.

The course was part of a vocational training project funded by FCA and implemented by the General Assistance and Volunteer Organization (GAVO) and the Horn of Africa Voluntary Youth Committee (HAVOYOVO).

Suhur Yusuf, a young and talented graduate, spoke about how the course changed her life, sporting her handmade gown.

“On the day of my university graduation, I nearly spent USD 200 on the graduation outfit, but  today I spent just USD 10 on the dress, which I tailored with my own hands. ”

Every student tailored their own gown in an incredible display of how much they’d learned on the course.

“Aside from these stunning dresses, what strikes me is how you blended colors to create a really attractive ensemble, demonstrating how our efforts are fruitful,” said  Sahra-Kiin, an FCA representative.

Tailoring and garment design course was part of a vocational training project funded by FCA and implemented by the General Assistance and Volunteer Organization (GAVO) and the Horn of Africa Voluntary Youth Committee (HAVOYOVO). Photo: FCA Somalia

Sustainable livelihood skills for the future

In addition to the students’ families and friends, the ceremony was attended by high level guests, such as Abdirashid Ibrahim, Director of Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs. 

“I’d like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Finnish government, which is not only sponsoring this project but also many other development initiatives to support the Somaliland Government’s Development Plans, ” he said.

Also in attendance were Ahmed Omar and Abdillahi Hassan, Executive Directors from GAVO and HAVOYOCO, who welcomed guests and explained to the audience the unique nature of this particular course wasn’t confined to the beautiful garments on display. They celebrated that an outstanding 46 students working in 12 groups had been chosen for start-up grants, while the others receive toolkits to help with their own businesses.  

Finally Qani Abdi, a representative of the Somaliland private sector discussed the importance of tailoring skills and gave a taste of how the graduates could turn their skills into a profitable business in the future.
“I am impressed by the designs you have displayed. That tells the advanced training you have received. ”


By: Mohamed Aden

Ugandan Youths and Refugees Trained in Business and Vocational Skills

Ugandan youths and refugees trained in Business and Vocational Skills

Finn Church Aid with partner Enabel has provided Ugandan and refugee youth in Palorinya settlement with necessary business understanding and vocational skills to find opportunities for sustainable livelihoods.

The war in South Sudan forced Alex Lojuan, 27, to flee his home and settle in Palorinya Refugee settlement, located in Obongi district in the West Nile sub-region of Uganda. He is one of the 512 youth that enrolled for the GIZ-ENABEL funded project implemented by Finn Church Aid (FCA) in the Palorinya refugee settlement.

“My father died during the war and as the eldest child in the family, I had to take on the mantle of providing for the family. These were the hardest moments of my life, fending for a family in a foreign land,” Alex says.

Alex Lojuan attending to a customer at his Retail shop located in Odraji Village, Zone 1 – Palorinya settlement
Alex Lojuan attending to a customer at his Retail shop located in Odraji Village, Zone 1 – Palorinya settlement. Photo: Linda Kabuzire

Alex started laying bricks for income and later got the opportunity to work with Lutheran World Federation (LWF) as a casual worker, distributing soap to refugees during the monthly distribution of food rations and household items in settlements. While at LWF, he received information about the FCA Business and Technical Vocational Education Trainings (BTVET).

“As luck would have it, I was enrolled as one of the FCA business skills trainees. Although, I am yet to finish the business training course, what I have learned so far in the first two modules has instilled in me a positive mindset for success,” Alex says.

Enhanced youth employability

The project ‘Promoting Youth Employability through Enterprise and Skills Development’ (PROYES) began in October 2019 and ended in May 2021. It sought to enhance profitable employment opportunities for refugee and host community youths through skills training and business development support, by equipping the youth with demand-driven vocational and business skills for fluent transition into working life in employment or self-employment.

During the project, FCA trained and mentored young people in Business Start-up and Management and in vocational skills like hairdressing, sandal making, carpentry, tailoring and building construction.

Backed by the training and skills received from the FCA business class training, in March 2020 Alex started up a retail business with the money saved from bricklaying and casual work.

“I used my 300,000 Ugandan Shillings savings to start a retail shop in Odraji Village, Zone 1 in Palorinya settlement. Within seven months, my business capital had doubled. This is in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic situation that has affected most businesses,” Alex says.

“I run my shop with proper business principles learned during the FCA training. I have a business plan, I negotiate with suppliers to get the best deals, practice marketing of my goods, and deliver great customer service in my business,” he adds.

Alex earns a weekly profit of over 30,000 Ugandan Shillings (UGX) and with this money, he is able to take care of his extended family.  He also bought bicycle for himself and put up a temporary structure that houses his retail shop.

Linking learning to earning

In a bid to increase employability chances of the youth trained, FCA provided start-up kits to the trainees who completed the course. The organisation also linked the trainees to available employment opportunities.

By end of the project period, 153 trainees, including 86 males and 67 females, were employed either by the private sector entities where they had attended industrial training or became self-employed.

Gordon Chiria, a 26-year-old Ugandan living in Obongi town managed to set up his dream business after the training.

“I used to grow and sell maize and other crops to support my family.  This business wasn’t successful because I failed to maintain it. After FCA’s training, I started a retail business with a capital of UGX 300,000. Currently I make sales worth UGX 80,000 per day and much more on market days,” Gordon says.

Using his business profits, Gordon managed to buy two goats and support his family. He plans to expand his business to both retail and wholesale. “I appreciate Enabel and FCA’s efforts towards making the livelihood of Obongi community youths better,” he adds.

Focus also on young women’s skills

The project also supported female youths. More than half, 53 % of all beneficiaries were females that benefited from the six skills trades under the project.

FCA supported female participation by establishing four child daycare centres and also facilitated customised career guidance, counselling and life skills training to enable female trainees appreciate the trainings and build their resilience to complete the course.

Esther Kuyang, 25-year-old South Sudanese refugee came to Palorinya refugee settlement with her family in January 2017. “My family and I were depending on the limited resources provided by World Food Programme. The food rations provided were not always enough, yet it was quite hard to get supplementary food due to lack of a source of income,” she recounts.

“While I was still pondering about what to do to take care of my family, FCA came to my aid. With their support, I enrolled for a business entrepreneurship course at Belameling Vocational Training Centre,” Esther tells.

“I had previously been trained by FCA in sandal making. Due to the lack of start-up capital, I was yet to put that skill into practice. During the business training under the FCA-Enabel project, I learned that my real capital was my brain. I immediately started to think of ways to get capital to rejuvenate my previously acquired skills of sandal making.”

Esther Kuyang making sandals in her workshop.
Esther Kuyang a south Sudanese refugee making sandals in her workshop in Chinyi village, Zone 1, Palorinya refugee settlement. Photo: Linda Kabuzire.

“In mid-July 2020, I got a loan of UGX 170,000 from my friend and bought some basic materials such as rubber, thread, beads, for starting a sandal making business. With the business skills acquired in the training like record keeping, marketing and proper accounting, my business started growing. Within two months, I grew my business capital to UGX 200,000. On average, I earn a profit of UGX 28,000 weekly. I am still paying off my loan and I will keep reinvesting the profits in the business. I am also saving with Vision Savings Group, our FCA–Enabel Internal lending group,” she adds.

Esther is the chairperson of the savings group that was formed in January 2020 under the support of FCA-Enabel project. So far she has saved 75,000 shillings with this group. She also bought a bicycle, which facilitates her movements. Esther plans to buy more tools and equipment’s for sandal making, especially those that she currently lacks. She also plans on expanding the business and opening more branches in other trading centres to generate more income.

Text: Linda Kabuzire

Business and Technical Vocational Education Training provides opportunities for a brighter future in Ugandan refugee settlements

Business and Technical Vocational Education Training provides opportunities for a brighter future in Ugandan refugee settlements

Finn Church Aid has been providing refugee youth in Uganda business and Technical Vocational Education Training. Their pre-exiting skills were diverse but overall, the programme has provided many with necessary capacities to provide for themselves in the future.

FINN CHURCH AID (FCA) promotes vocational education and entrepreneurship among women and young people in Uganda, a country that has taken in more than a million refugees from its neighbouring countries. No other country in Africa hosts more refugees than Uganda. The majority of them are children and youth who have arrived with varying educational backgrounds and skills to start earning their own living in time to come.

In early 2020, the pandemic had a tremendous impact on self-employment in Uganda. A survey conducted by the UN Capital Development Fund showed that around half of self-employed people fell below the poverty line after one month of lockdown. Fortunately, by the end of the year, the situation was showing signs of improvement.

The work in Kyaka Refugee Settlement is based on FCA’s Linking Learning to Earning (LL2E) approach, establishing functional links between Business, Technical, Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and the world of work. FCA Uganda has been implementing BTVET programmes in other Ugandan refugee settlements for several years already. During 2020, 1,925 young people in total received Business and Technical Vocational Education Training (BTVET) in FCA Uganda country programme.

Our trainees and graduates from Kyaka Refugee Settlement share their experiences and thoughts below.

Bashimbe smiles while braiding a client's hair.

Bashimbe Banzuzi, 17

Bashimbe fled the DRC for Uganda in 2018. “There was no peace,” she says. “We couldn’t sleep as we were constantly afraid of what the night would bring.” She arrived with her grandparents and two sisters. Bashimbe is now two weeks into her hairdressing course with FCA and is excited for the future. “I love hairdressing because I know there is demand for it,” she says. “After finishing this course I will be able to support my family. Right now there is no one else who is earning money.”

Charles sits on the ground repairing a motorcycle.

Charles Biyoik, 18

Charles arrived in Uganda from the DRC in 2019. He came alone. “Life was too hard and I wasn’t studying,” he says. In the DRC Charles had a no-skill job in a restaurant. When he arrived in Kyaka II Refugee Settlement he heard an radio advertisement for vocational training and decided to pursue a course in motorcycle repair. “Hopefully, I will one day open my own garage.”

Erian sewing.

Erian Tuyisenge, 17

Erian has lived in Kyaka all her life. Her parents fled Rwanda in 1997, passing through Tanzania before settling in Kyaka II Refugee Settlement. “I was sitting at home doing nothing,” she says. She has just begun a 6 month tailoring course at the FCA’s Vocational training centre. “I know tailoring will provide me a future as there is always demand. So you can earn a lot of money.”

Beni doing another woman's hair in a saloon.

Beni, 21

Beni (standing) arrived in Uganda with her sister after fleeing violence and the murder of their parents in the DRC. “I had very little skills in hairdressing, but when I heard about the program, I knew I wanted to take part so I can help my family,’ she says. Beni and sister Rose went through the training together and in December 2019 they decided to open up a little salon in Kyaka settlement. “Even if we get one or two customers a day we are able to buy some soap, and some food.”

Beni looks to the distance.

Skills are important especially for girls because many, Beni says, are involved in prostitution. “If they have skills, girls can focus on improving their lives and their family’s lives.”

Prince working on a field with others.

Prince Mushesa, 22

Prince crossed the border alone, arriving in Uganda from the DRC in 2019 after rebels had kidnapped his family. When Prince heard from his neighbours that is was possible to study agriculture he was excited as he felt that it was a skill that could help him in the future. “I have been taught new techniques that I didn’t know before,” he says. FCA continues to supports students once they graduate by providing small plots of land for the students to continue to practice their farming. And of course whatever they grew, they keep.

Priska looking lovingly at a baby sitting next to her.

Priska Kabira, 19

Priska is one of many students who are also young mothers. To support their learning, daycare is provided by the school. For Priska, who is studying Tailoring, this has meant she can spend more time in the classroom. “If they didn’t have daycare it would be very difficult. I would have to take her to the classroom and every time she cried I would have to tend to her.” Priska has been in Uganda for four years after fleeing the DRC with her family out of fear of being kidnapped by rebels.

Sonia baking wearing an FCA apron and cook's hat.

Sonia Kalombola, 21

Sonia fled to Uganda with her family in 2010 due to conflict between families that left her uncle murdered. The family first settled in Kampala, capital of Uganda. Urban refugees are expected to be self-reliant but the high costs of living forced the family to Kyaka II where the family now resides. Sonia is currently studying Catering. “I love catering. I love to cook and bake. I hope to be a professional in the future and open a hotel and help others to learn about catering.”

Isabela showing a beautiful top she has made.

Isabela Kabuwo, 23

Isabela settled in Kyaka II Refugee Settlement in 2017 after war forced her to flee the DRC with her family. When she heard about the tailoring course offered by FCA she jumped at the chance. Fast forward to 2021 she now works alongside two other fellow graduates in a small tailoring business on the busiest street in Kyaka. “When we work as a group, we work better,’ she says. Isabela currently rents her sewing machine but is hoping to pay it off in the next couple of months.

Yvonne on a lush field.

Yvonne Ishimye, 19

Yvonne arrived in Uganda in 2017 after fleeing violence in the DRC with her family. Yvonne was already studying agriculture in the DRC and when she was determined to finish her studies however the costs of schooling were too prohibitive. When she learned that FCA offered a course in Agriculture to refugees it filled her with tremendous excitement. “When I was practicing agriculture in the DRC it wasn’t in my heart, but when I came to Uganda it became my ambition,” she says. Since graduating, Yvonne now plants tomatoes not far from her family’s house. Every five months she harvests her tomatoes earning enough money to buy new seeds and provide for her whole family.

Shukuru sitting outside working on metal with a friend in the background.

Shukuru Misago, 20

Shukuru fled to Uganda when as a child with his entire family. In 2020 Shukuru was successful in securing a place in motorcycle repair at the FCA Vocational Training Center in Kyaka II. “There are so many boda boda’s (motorcycle taxis) where I live so I knew there would be a market. Now that I am working and own my own garage I can get everything I need to support my family,” he says. He has grown up seeing FCA’s impact in the settlement. “I want to see other refugees benefit from this programme the way I have benefited.”

Text: Nora Luoma and Erik Nyström
Photos: Hugh Rutherford

Remote working opens up new job opportunities for refugees – FCA to collaborate with Startup Refugees in Zaatari camp

Mies istuu tietokoneen ääressä.
Zakaria Tahseen Alkilani, 25, lives in the Zaatari refugee camp. Zakaria programmes games and develops applications. He wants to help traditional Zaatar businesses in digital marketing and later start his own online business.

Remote working opens up new job opportunities for refugees – FCA to collaborate with Startup Refugees in Zaatari camp

Residents of the Jordanian refugee camp Zaatari will receive entrepreneurship and ICT lessons from Finland remotely.

Finn Church Aid and Startup Refugees are about to begin a collaboration in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. The project’s mentors in Finland will offer ICT entrepreneurship training remotely to young people living in Zaatari.

For nine years, the camp of nearly 80,000 residents has provided a home for people fleeing the Syrian civil war. However, the lives of young people in particular are marked by a lack of training and employment opportunities in the camp. The training programme launched this week responds to this need.

45 people living in the camp will receive training on the opportunities freelance jobs in the ICT sector can offer and on how to market their skills. The 15 most active participants in the programme will be selected for mentoring by internationally assembled ICT, marketing and HR professionals.

Zaatari residents have been excited about the mentoring opportunities. Rana Ibrahim Alsees, 40, hopes to get training to help her market her craft business on social media.

Zakaria Tahseen Alkilani, 25, is a games programmer who hopes to run his own online business by this autumn. Both Rana and Zakaria will attend the training from home.

The mentors in the programme, which will continue until August, are also looking forward to the coming months.

“I moved to Finland about eight years ago, so I know about the challenges in finding your place in a new environment,” says user interface designer and mentor Kazi Athar.

“But everything went great for me, and that’s why I want to give something back. I believe that supporting the employment of refugees and asylum seekers benefits everyone: employers, the economy, cities and entire states – and, of course, the people themselves.”

Kazi says that in the ICT sector you can work from anywhere in the world and “all you need is a computer and the right kind of attitude”.

Felipe Gasnier, a web and graphic designer who has joined the mentoring programme, is also looking forward to future meetings.

“There is always demand for ICT professionals. I will help my student create a portfolio and a website and see how they could showcase their skills.”

Nainen seisoo ja katsoo kameraan hymyillen.
Rana Ibrahim Alsees, 40, lives in Zaatari where she has a crafts business. Her goal is to market her crafts on social media and create a company website. Rana’s passion is learning new tech skills.

ICT sector can provide employment regardless of where you live

At the heart of all Startup Refugees’ work is an offer of support from an extensive network of partners, along with training and mentoring provided by top experts in many fields.

“A huge number of people who want to share their professional skills and practical advice with those living in the camp have become involved as mentors. Our work in Finland has shown that when people with the same interests are brought together, miracles begin to happen,” says Mustafa Abdulameer, Global Director at Startup Refugees.

Finn Church Aid’s work in Jordan focuses on improving the livelihoods of refugees, youth and women.

“The global shift towards remote work will open up new employment opportunities for refugees as well. The experience of Startup Refugees mentors shows that the ICT sector can employ refugees regardless of where they live. It is important for the project participants to see that their starting point won’t matter; they can succeed anyway,” says Ville Wacklin, Senior Programme Manager at Finn Church Aid.

Startup Refugees is a non-profit organisation established in 2015 to support refugees in finding employment and setting up companies. By now, Startup Refugees has provided nearly 1,000 jobs in Finland and supported more than 200 business ideas. The Startup Refugees network includes 1,000 companies, organisations and individuals who all in their own way support the employment and entrepreneurship of refugees.

Finn Church Aid (FCA) is Finland’s largest international aid organisation. FCA works to promote education, peace and livelihoods. As part of its efforts to improve livelihoods, FCA develops the conditions where companies need to operate and helps people start their own businesses in its programme countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

By Ulriikka Myöhänen / FCA, Elisa Vepsäläinen / Startup Refugees
Photography by Osama Nabeel / FCA

A little chocolate shop, organic vegetables and furniture restoration – entrepreneurship training provides new beginnings in Jordan

Young saplings are growing in plastic mugs planted into plastic tubes. A pump circulates water for 15 minutes once every two hours. Tomatoes, watermelons, cucumbers, peppers, strawberries and flowers are grown on the flat roof. Tarpaulins protect the pots from too much sun.

The rooftop garden is a hydroponics prototype built by Ibrahim Milhem, 45, in Irbid, the third largest city in Jordan.

Ibrahim, who is an engineer, previously worked in fertiliser and cement companies. After he became unemployed, the life of the family with seven children changed and they ended up losing their house.

”I love plants and trees and planting them,” says Ibrahim.

Ibrahim and layal sitting in the living room.

Ibrahim Milhem’s daughter Layal is eager to help her father and follows his activities in the rooftop garden. Photo: Tatu Blomqvist/FCA.

The living room walls in Ibrahim’s brother’s house, which is where the family lives now, are full of paintings made by Ibrahim, who is an avid painter; most depict trees and plants.

However, irrigation is expensive, because there is a water shortage in Jordan.

Ibrahim set about solving the problem and found information about hydroponics online. Around the same time, he heard about the entrepreneurship training organised by Finn Church Aid (FCA). The training helped him hone the idea of a business of his own. In addition, he learned about marketing, of which he had no prior experience.

Hydroponics is brand new in Jordan, but being resourceful, Ibrahim used his brother’s rooftop to build his own prototype that he now plans to develop and expand.

The hydroponic plantation saves about 80 percent water compared to regular growing.

”At first I didn’t believe it, but I gave it a try and it’s true,” says Ibrahim, who is constantly studying more and learning by doing.

His aim is to have a garden producing organic vegetables that welcomes customers to come and pick their own vegetables.

Finnish entrepreneurship training gave encouragement

Jordan has an unemployment rate of over 18 percent, and the number is much higher still for women and young people.

A country with a population of 9.5 million, Jordan has reveiced over a million refugees since 2011. This is the second highest number relative to population after Lebanon. Most have run away from the war that is in its eighth year now in neighbouring Syria.

From 2017 to 2018, FCA cooperated with Mercuria Business College to organise compact entrepreneurship courses to refugees and Jordanians in the most vulnerable positions. After a two-month training period, participants received mentoring and a small start-up grant.

55 people participated in the courses, and so far they have started a total of 49 businesses, some of which already employ others as well. Over half of those who have started businesses are women and ten percent are persons with disability.

Flowers and awareness education

Asma'a and Hussam standing in front of the shelves with gift packages in their shop.

Asma’a (left) and Hussam think that starting a business has not been too difficult. What has preoccupied them the most is how to make interaction with customers work as deaf people. To help with this, they are developing an application using pictures and sign language.

Jordanian friends Asma’a and Hussam, both deaf, attended the entrepreneurship course and learned skills such as marketing, financial planning, and customer service. They are in the process of setting up a flower shop on their block.

We are developing an application that works through a flat-screen television and allows us to communicate with our customers, because there are very few sign language interpreters in Jordan,” says Asma’a.

”At the same time, we can provide awareness education and bring attention to the position of deaf people in society.”

Both Asma’a and Hussam are highly educated. Both have often been invited to job interviews based on their CVs, but being deaf has prevented them from landing the job.

The first flower shop in the neighbourhood has already been beautifully furnished in preparation for the opening a few weeks later. All that remains is the fresh flowers that need to be picked up from the wholesale supplier.

A hobby turned into livelihood

Ranaa stands in front of her shop.

Ranaa Abu Atta founded the Reeno chocholates & sweets after attending  Finn Church Aid’s entrepreneurship training. Photo: Tatu Blomqvist/FCA.

Jordanian Rana Abu Atta, 23, is displeased, although without an interpreter, we would not have noticed from all the smiles and laughter. Because of scheduling issues, we have come to see her a day earlier than we originally agreed upon, and she has not had time to fill the display cases with her most intricate chocolates. Even so, the shelves, just like our bellies later on, are full of delicious desserts and sweets piled in front of us for tasting.

Rana was forced to quit her studies in business administration because of her family’s financial difficulties.

She wanted to do something to help her family. Rana decided to start making chocolates. She got the idea from a video she saw on Facebook. It gave her the desire to learn more, and she searched YouTube for more videos.

Although making sweets looked fun, Rana found it is not always easy. She kept trying and published her own video on Facebook featuring sweets she had made. People liked the video, and orders started coming in.

Rana noticed an advertisement for the entrepreneurship training organised by FCA, applied for the course, and got in.

Now Rana has her own shop with one employee. The bank loan for the shop is in the name of her mother, who has supported her daughter in setting up her business. The chocolates and desserts are still made in the home of the family, and she dreams of expanding to bigger premises including a large kitchen.

”Having my own premises has increased people’s trust in my products. They think that if I have the confidence to open my own shop, my products must be good. My income has increased since opening the shop,” says Rana.

Rana with her mother in the chocolate shop.

”One of the most beautiful things is my own daughter’s dreams coming true. I’m so proud of her,” says Rana’s mother Amal Fawzi. Photo: Tatu Blomqvist/FCA.

A new beginning in a new country

Omar Balkhi with his tools.

Omar Balkhi provides for his family by manufacturing traditional Syrian furniture and providin furniture restoration and repairing services. Photo: Dana Mufleh /FCA.

Omar Balkhi was wounded in the Syrian war: grenade shrapnel took his legs. The father of two ran with his family from Syria to Jordan. In his new home, Omar fought to find a way to provide for his family.

He wanted to start his own workshop, but he did not know how.

”Now I can run my own business and I have the drive to go on. I can develop my work and get information on my competitors. I’ve learned leadership skills and marketing. Before, I didn’t understand how important these skills are,” says Omar after the FCA training.

In his workshop, Omar plans to sell traditional Syrian wooden furniture that he builds by hand. The business also provides furniture restoration and repair services.

Legislation limits refugees’ entrepreneurship

Refugees and Jordanians attending the course have started joint business ventures.

”It’s good to build a business with a Jordanian partner. Unfortunately, there is no law or official document to corroborate my right to own a business. I’m constantly worried of losing my business”, says one of the Syrian entrepreneurs in the project.

Based on the experiences from the project, Finn Church Aid is cooperating with other international non-governmental organisations, using their influence to create a clear legal framework for joint business ventures in Jordan. This would allow Syrians to work as entrepreneurs with Jordanians as equal partners and to benefit the Jordanian economy.

A big water tank and pot garden on the rooftop.

Jordan is one of the driest countries in the world. Both cities and farming are suffering from water shortage. Ibrahim Milhem’s  rooftop garden is a little oasis in the city. The kids of the family like to spend time there. Photo: Tatu Blomqvist/FCA.

Text: Minna Elo
Photos: Tatu Blomqvist ja Dana Mufleh.

The project was funded by the European Regional Development and Protection Programme for the Middle East (RDPP), supported by the European Union, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Vocational training graduates from Kampala’s notorious slum determined to become role models for youth

Growing up in Uganda’s biggest slum can label a person for a lifetime. Last week, 95 youth celebrated their graduation from Katwe’s Skills Center in Kampala, showing what can become of them when given a chance.

The air around the dusty field in the thick of Katwe’s slum area is bursting with excitement. White tents have been raised for a crowd of hundreds of viewers, including the 95 graduates from Katwe’s Skills Center.

They have completed their yearlong courses in photography, electronics and hairdressing, and are today dressed in their finest wear, including yellow robes and graduation hats. Finn Church Aid, The Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Muslim Youth Development Forum have supported their studies. Representatives from the local police authorities are also present to witness the students’ big day.

“This is sending everyone a message not to judge a community as a whole before you give them an alternative way of life”, says Ahmed Hadji, Team leader of the Muslim Youth Development Forum.

Youth yearn for a chance to prove themselves

Katwe is Uganda’s biggest slum area and widely known as a notorious haven for criminality, prostitution and recruitment of extremist groups. The reputation labels the community as a whole.

22-year-old Kaweesi Ramadan says it was impossible to find work before. Not only because

Graduates from FCA's vocational training in Katwe, Uganda

Kaweesi Ramadan, 22, (middle) says that from this day on, he is going to walk proudly on the streets of Katwe to show an example to other youth of what they can become.

he never had the chance to go to school, but also because he grew up in Katwe. His upbringing already deters employers.

“I had to do things that people do when there is nothing else. I stole people’s phones and used drugs”, Ramadan says.

Ramadan was at rock bottom when community leaders approached him about the training. He managed to leave his former life behind and powered through a yearlong education, specialising in electronics.

Project administrator Diana Akunda explains that the project also aims to connect the students with officials and police with the intention of letting them understand that change is possible.

“We invited local authorities on Friday sessions to witness the progress and at least make sure that they remember the faces of these youth who are determined to earn a living through work”, she says.

“When I see the youth today and compare with what they looked like at the start, I’m the happiest person.”

Training builds mental character

The training requires a lot of discipline from youth who never went to school, and who have to wait to earn money until after the training is completed. Nambalirwa Babirye, 22, says she was extremely shy when she joined, but after finishing her training as a hairdresser, she feels more comfortable socially.

Graduates from FCA's vocational training celebrating in Katwe, Uganda

Nambalirwa Babirye, 22, (middle) celebrates becoming a hairdresser. Her dream is to start a saloon for celebrities.

“I grew up with a single-mom and had to quit school after the first grade because she could not afford it. I am so excited about finally learning skills that I already started teaching children what I know”, she says.

“I want to improve children’s lives, and personally I dream to start a saloon for dressing celebrities.”

Ramadan has learnt to repair electronics and create innovative technical solutions in an environment where creativity is much needed due to the lack of money. At the graduation event, another student displays a fully working helicopter he’s built during the training. The photography students have also decorated the venue with breath taking pictures.

Graduated electricians receive a toolkit worth 50 US dollars to help set up a business, while photographers and hairdressers are supported in establishing studios, saloons and spas.

“From this day, I will be walking proudly on the streets of Katwe to show what we all can become when given the chance to prove what we are capable of”, Ramadan says.

After a round of musical performances and inspirational speeches, the student’s receive their diplomas and cut the graduation cakes. Plenty of flowers are handed out, and when the speakers start blasting hit music, all 95 students spontaneously start dancing and singing along. The atmosphere is electric.

“This is the first time they celebrate something. There’s been years of negative attention for them, but now it is positive. I am so excited about this”, Hadji says.

Text: Erik Nyström, Photos: Sumy Sadurni

Hydroponics and flowers in sign language – vocational and entrepreneurship training gave employment and helped start new small-scale businesses in Jordan

From 2017 to 2018, Finn Church Aid (FCA) offered tailor-made vocational and entrepreneurship training ro refugees, persons with disability, and Jordanians in the most vulnerable positions. A total of 424 refugees and Jordanians completed the vocational training and 49 businesses were started in the project that ended in September.

Out of the graduates from the vocational training, 84 have found employment, and 116 have received additional training as well as tools and equipment to start their own business. More than half of the graduates are women.

Jordan has an unemployment rate of over 18 percent, and the number is much higher still for women (80%) and young people (90%). A country with a population of 9.5 million, Jordan has reveiced the second highest number of refugees relative to population after Lebanon, over a million. Syrian refugees are only allowed to work in certain branches with a shortage of labour.

Before the training started, a marketing survey was conducted to find out which branches had the need for labour and which skills employers valued. Occupational groups in demand included carpenters, electricians, mobile phone repairers, construction assistants, hotel and restaurant workers, and tailors.

To support and encourage women to participate in the vocational training, FCA offered child care services near the training locations in cooperation with the Finnish aid organisation Fida.

”The work of Finn Church Aid is rights-based, meaning that the leading principles throughout the project have been equality, non-discrimination and responsibility. It has been encouraging to work with women and persons with disability in this project,” says Ashraf Yacoub, Finn Church Aid regional director in the Middle East.

Finnish entrepreneurship training encouraged to start businesses

In addition to vocational training, FCA cooperated with Mercuria Business College to organise compact entrepreneurship courses including a training period, mentoring and a small start-up grant.

After the entrepreneurship training, unemployed Jordanian engineer Ibrahim Milhem has started a hydroponic plantation producing vegetables and flowers on his brother’s rooftop. The hydroponic plantation saves about 80 percent water compared to regular growing by circulating water with the help of a pump in the tubes in which the plants have been planted. Water is in short supply in Jordan, and it is expensive. Photo: Tatu Blomqvist.

55 people participated in the courses. They have already started a total of 49 businesses, some of which already employ others as well. Over half of those who have started businesses are women and ten percent are persons with disability.

Jordanian friends Asma’a and Hussam took part in the entrepreneurship training and are starting a flower shop in their neighbourhood. Both are deaf.

”We are developing an application that works through a flat-screen television and allows us to communicate with our customers, because there are very few sign language interpreters in Jordan,” says Asma’a.

Legislation limits refugees’ entrepreneurship

Refugees and Jordanians attending the course have started joint business ventures.

”It’s good to build a business with a Jordanian partner. Unfortunately, there is no law or official document to corroborate my right to own a business. I’m constantly worried of losing my business”, says one of the Syrian entrepreneurs in the project.

Based on the experiences from the project, Finn Church Aid is cooperating with other international non-governmental organisations to advocate for a clear legal framework for joint business ventures in Jordan. This would allow Syrians to work as entrepreneurs with Jordanians as equal partners and to benefit the Jordanian economy.

Syrian widow Wazirah emphasises the importance of developing legal channels to register businesses. The training gave her confidence, knowlege and skills, and she can now provide for her family and give her son an education.

”This project was a step out of my comfort zone, I feel stronger now,” says Wazirah.

See full press release here.

The project was funded by the European Regional Development and Protection Programme for the Middle East (RDPP), supported by the European Union, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

 

 

Biggest student batch ever enrolled in Rwamwanja vocational education, Uganda

Finn Church Aid (FCA) doubled the capacity of its training center in Rwamwanja refugee settlement, meeting the growing demand for vocational skills in the settlement and host community.

New students from Rwamwanja refugee settlement and the host community gathered for orientation day in late August. Photo: FCA/ Lilian Musoki

New students from Rwamwanja refugee settlement and the host community gathered for orientation day in late August. Photo: FCA/ Lilian Musoki

FCA has completed infrastructural developments for its Business, Technical and Vocational Education Training (BTVET) in Rwamwanja refugee settlement, Uganda.

The capacity boost enabled the enrolment of 500 new trainees – the biggest number ever for the six-month training. The growing demand for vocational skills is evident. This summer, the project received 2 481 BTVET applications from the settlement and host community.

“I am glad I was selected for the course of tailoring. I cannot wait to improve my standards of living by earning my own money, without depending on handouts”, says Irafashe Jean, one of the new students, who took part in the orientation sessions in late August.

Vocational education for youth aged 15–25 years

Earlier, the centre could only take on 250 trainees per intake. In scaling up the number of refugee and host community students with UNHCR funding, the project constructed two Community Based Training centres and added two classroom blocks to the existing one at Nkoma.

Moreover, 90 youth have been enrolled for three-month courses at the Community Based Training centres, which limit walking distances to the training. The selection criteria is based on protection concerns, such as unaccompanied minors, child headed households, teenage mothers and persons with special needs. This brings the total intake for August 2018 – January 2019 to 590 youth.

The project continues to provide training for youth out of school aged 15–25 years. The skills provided as selected by the youth are based on the market assessment.

Earlier this year, 250 youth received skills in five six-month courses, including textile and garment cutting, agricultural training, hairdressing and cosmetology, blacksmith welding and sandal making.

The project’s target is to reach 840 youth by close of 2018. The project will continue to follow up on trainees after the training, provide counselling and link trainees to potential employment through personal entrepreneurship and private sector jobs.

Read more about Finn Church Aid’s work in Uganda by clicking here.

Finnish vocational education is now available in Uganda – first ones to obtain the diploma celebrated their graduation in June

In June, graduations were celebrated in Uganda as well, as 20 graduates of a Finnish entrepreneurship training received their diplomas. This is the first time that it has been possible to complete a Finnish secondary vocational education in Uganda.

The project carried out in cooperation between Finn Church Aid and education export company Omnia Education Partnerships aims to offer entrepreneurship education to both refugees in Uganda and young Ugandans.

Uganda is the third-largest recipient of refugees in the world. There are currently almost 1.5 million refugees in the country.

”Education export like this has not been carried out in Uganda before. An official vocational qualification opens up doors to further education for the graduates. The qualification allows them to apply for institutes of higher education within the EU, for example,” says Finn Church Aid project manager and instructor for the project, Ville Wacklin.

This is an official entrepreneur’s further vocational qualification, equivalent in its requirements to a Finnish upper secondary level degree. In addition to improved prospects of employment, completing the qualification certifies the graduate as a trainer who can train others wanting to become entrepreneurs in the future.

Dreaming of international markets

Last week, the Finnish Entrepreneurship Diploma was granted to 20 students, five of whom are refugees living in Uganda, and 15 Ugandan citizens.

One of the graduates is 25-year-old Ugandan Doris Akampurira. Empowered by the education, she has founded her own online store through which consumer goods and groceries can be ordered straight to one’s door step.

Ugandalainen Doris perusti KUA:n ja OEP:n yrittäjyyskoulutuksen aikana oman verkkokaupan.

Empowered by the training, Doris Akampurira, 25,  realized a long-time dream and established her own online store.

”Even though I had dreamed of entrepreneurship for a long time, I was hesitant to start my own business. Thanks to the training, I gained enough courage to take the final step. Now I dare to take calculated risks and I know what it takes to be an entrepreneur,” Doris says.

It all started from an idea that online shopping is the future.

”I want to make buying easier for people. The idea of my business is that customers can shop in the comfort of their home and have their shopping delivered straight to their door step,” Doris says.

The young businesswoman’s ambitious aim is to make her business known abroad as well.

”My dream is that in five years, everyone knows my online store, and that it’s one of the biggest in Uganda. One day, I hope to expand my online store even beyond Ugandan borders,” plans Doris.

26-year-old Joseph Lohose arrived in Uganda five years ago as a refugee. The entrepreneurship training has given him faith in the future and helped the young businessman to develop his business ideas.

”Personally, the qualification is a huge achievement for me. People have lots of preconceptions about refugees. It’s not easy to make it in a foreign country. Now I can apply for further education and realize my business plans”, Joseph says.

The successful pilot project is planned to continue in the fall, when the training hopefully commences on an even larger scale than before. At the moment, there are 60 future refugee entrepreneurs studying to attain the Finnish Entrepreneurship Diploma at a refugee camp in Kampala.

The joint-project of Finn Church Aid and Omnia Education Partnerships was carried out in cooperation with Savon ammattiopisto, Kauhavan yrittäjäopisto and Kauppiaitten kauppaoppilaitos Mercuria.

More information: Ville Wacklin, project manager, FCA, tel. +358 40 719 0592

Translation: Leena Vuolteenaho