“No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”

As we celebrate Refugee Week, we can’t fail to acknowledge those who have died in search of a better live and, those who are in danger and are not sure if they will arrive safely to their destination. According to UNHCR the number of forcibly displaced people is now 80 million, and over 26 million refugees.

There is still a long way to go in terms of refugee integration and inclusion policies. However, not all is bad news. In the UK, for example, according to a poll conducted by the BBC’s Crossing Divides season in 2020, the numbers have changed. 10 years ago only 19% of the population believed immigration was positive for the country. Today, almost half of the country believes that migrants bring value to the UK.

At SPEAK, we believe that together, we can make change happen! We stand up for equality and tolerance and speak out against xenophobia and racism. That’s why, today, we would like to change the narrative. We would like to show some of the many contributions refugees around the world have given to their new countries, their new homes.

These are a few of the many stories of refugees that have started their own businesses and a close perspective on what they all have in common: their strength, resilience and the fact that they don’t let a very dark period in their lives dictate their future (ALTERNATIVE: their path).

Ramia & Alan, Portugal.

Ramia Abdalghani and Alan Ghumim arrived in Portugal 5 years ago, in 2016. They started their restaurant, Tayybeh, in February last year (2020), just when the COVID-19 pandemic started. 

Although this has been a  very difficult and challenging time for hundreds of small businesses, this couple didn’t give in. Instead, they chose to help those who were on the frontlines of the pandemic. They started cooking free meals for health professionals that didn’t have time (or energy) to cook a meal after intense hours at work. 

We’ve always tried to give back to the country that received us with open arms,” agreed the couple. 

You can find out more about their restaurant in Lisbon here.

Hedayat, Australia.

Hedayat (Nick) Osyan had to flee Afghanistan because the ethnic group he belonged to—the Hazara—were being persecuted by the Sunni extremist groups.

During the first few months in Australia, everything seemed to be going well until Hedayat realized that there was still a long way to go to become truly integrated in Australia, as it is a very different country from Afghanistan. He worked hard to graduate, and graduated with an honours degree in Politics and International Relations. Hedayat wanted to help other refugees to thrive and to reach their potential like he did.

He started a social enterprise called ‘Community Construction’, where former refugees are welcome and have a real opportunity to thrive. Community Construction is focused on the employability of refugees – they help them to develop soft and hard skills, making it easier to find a job. More than 65 refugees have been employed and their families became financially independent.

In Nick’s words: “These former refugees have been successful because of equal opportunities and a fair society in Australia. I’m very grateful to this beautiful country and I’m trying my best to give something back to society.”

Know more here.

Ehab, Jordan.

Ehab was always fascinated by how things worked, even if it meant sacrificing some of his favourite toys. He said that when he was a kid, he would take apart my electronic games just to explore what was inside them.

When the conflict broke out in Syria, 9 years ago, Ehab and his family were already living in Jordan and were not able to return home.

While in Jordan, Ehab was able to attend college with the sacrifices his family did to save enough of the monthly financial support they received.  After graduating in computer science, he started volunteering at an innovation lab teaching programming to other Syrian refugees and locals.

During these workshops, Ehab found out about some of the problems that the students struggle with in their studies. He developed a kit to help them learn from home. Amani, a Jordanian with a passion for programming, joined Ehab and helped him with a business plan and secure funding for the startup. Together, they founded Drag IOT (Internet of things) to start selling the high-tech programming kits.

Know more here

Author: Mariana Brilhante

Mariana is Chief Marketing Officer at SPEAK, she loves nature and adventure, has a sort of obsession for typical sayings!

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