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As Abdul prepared to flee his beloved Taybeh, Syria, in the winter of 2012, his heart felt heavy. Leaving behind the place where he was born, where his family had lived and prospered for generations, was never going to be easy – but the situation had grown dangerously tense.
“The troubles in the city had started to affect our small town. For an entire week, we barely slept more than an hour a night. There was only one road open, and it was heading to Türkiye."
By the end of that week, the decision that had been weighing on everyone's minds was made. According to Abdul, over 5,000 people from his town fled their homes.
"All we could take with us were blankets, mattresses and as many clothes as we could fit in a backpack. It was heartbreaking to learn that our town was heavily bombarded the day after we left. It was destroyed entirely along with many people who had remained.”
During this time, Abdul’s focus was ensuring the safety and well-being of his family. Before the Syrian conflict, he and his family had other priorities, with education being top among them. All eight of his sisters and four brothers pursued higher education, and Abdul was no exception. He followed his love for agriculture and the natural world by studying for a career in agricultural engineering.
Once they reached Türkiye, Abdul and his family had to start over, rebuilding their lives bit by bit. Despite his agricultural education, he was unable to secure a job where he was now living in Hatay province. He had to take on various jobs to make ends meet, such as construction. During this time, he made a conscious effort to learn the Turkish language.
In 2015, Abdul came up with the idea to open a chicken sales shop due to a lack of proper logistics systems in the area and the high cost of meat. He saw a need for it, as people in his neighbourhood were having trouble finding chicken. “Others would place orders with me when I would go to the city centre to buy chicken. I thought of opening my own shop to meet this demand.”
At first, Abdul struggled with financial difficulties and the equipment needed for his shop, such as hygienic storage for food safety, refrigerators and different cutting machines. He also had to educate himself in how to use the machinery, as he had no previous experience in this field. Despite these challenges, he was determined to make his business a success and provide for his family.
“I had Syrian customers, as most of them did not speak Turkish. They started coming to me, and my customer base increased. This is why my need for a freezer gradually increased. However, the electricity bill was very high, and the appearance was not very appetizing.”
Without enough financial resources, Abdul found it difficult to expand his business and overcome the challenges he was facing.
Then, he came across an announcement by the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM), offering a cash grant for small and medium-sized enterprises. He applied and was elated to be accepted into the programme, where he received training on a variety of areas, including sales and marketing techniques. This grant enabled him to purchase the necessary tools and equipment for his business.
“IOM’s cash grant programme aims to empower migrant, refugee and host community members with improved livelihoods, leading to economic empowerment and self-sufficiency,” explains Mohanad Ameen, IOM Türkiye Recovery and Stabilization Officer. “This puts them in a better position to contribute to development in their communities, fostering cohesion and peaceful coexistence.”
Through the cash grant and training, Abdul was able to enhance his business and make it more stable.
"I gained crucial knowledge on how to conduct sales, meet customer satisfaction, and expand my customer base. Presenting the product attractively is crucial for Turkish customers; with the help of the cash grant, I was able to purchase all the necessary equipment," he expressed.
Today, in the aftermath of the February 2023 earthquakes, he – like many determined and hardworking Syrians in Türkiye – has set his sights on continuing to grow his business and contribute to the local economy.
IOM’s cash grant program for refugees, migrant and host communities is made possible with the support of the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM).