After fleeing genocide and persecution by the Islamic State(IS), the Christians and Yezidis of Iraq are able to return to their home and areas of former businesses. However, their businesses and towns have been completed destroyed and the people who return find themselves facing an unstable security situation, compounded by dire economic challenges. Without jobs or major economic revitalization projects underway to create thriving jobs underlying issues such as poverty, migration and instability will continue to form barriers to peace and stability. Peace is a key component to sustainable development with a healthy business environment key to that development.
Shai Fund’s project restores and restarts businesses as a means of transforming the economic situation in devastated towns and villages, while combatting poverty. This project gives returning minorities, who often are excluded from chances for long term peace through economic development, the opportunity to work and earn a living, which is one of the most effective ways for them to rebuild their lives with dignity and purpose. It assists religious minorities resettling in their liberated cities by funding small and medium sized businesses through specific grants in order to strengthen these beleaguered communities, to promote economic self-reliance and sustainability, and to rebuild their future in order to thrive in their homeland.
The Need: This project seeks to strengthen these minority communities economically to combat ongoing attempts to eradicate the minorities from the region. Most critical is a sense of solidarity to be transferred to minority communities that have suffered the genocide in Iraq in a practical way, which also provides them with hope and dignity. They feel forgotten and hopeless because their suffering (including their security needs) have been largely unaddressed economically.
The Solution: Shai Fund is able to give people hope and the practical ability to rebuild their lives by reaching these communities with jobs and revitalization of the economy. This project uses businesses to help fight poverty, and in turn makes the returning minorities self-sustaining. It combats further displacement and emigration from Iraq as it anchors them back in their towns. Importantly, it combats attempts to exchange populations via colonization linked to population displacement, continued harassment, and forced sale of their lands and businesses due to the inability to survive the significant hurdles they are facing, following the genocide.
This project started in 2017 and has been ongoing since that time. With new funding received in 2020 from Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity another 12 businesses were completed in 2020. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the project continued into 2021 with the Aurora Funding. in 2022 the project received funding for another 10 businesses.
In 2023 the project is seeking $100,000 of funding to open up another 20 businesses.
Comments from the new business owners and what these new businesses mean to them in their own words:
1- TV studio:
Since I started my studio, I was able to train 3 people to join the business. For me, this studio has become a source of making my life and supporting my family. Before, I had nothing, and my life was irregular. I gained a lot of experience and I aim to open a larger studio, with more equipment and more cameras. I want to be a real professional providing all kinds of service in the media sector.
2- Stationary Store:
I love books and I am happy to share this with the people in the region. When ISIS invaded, they burned all our books. During my displacement I started to collect again books and stored them at a friend’s house. Books are a part of education, and my business provides the people with all necessary supplies for schools, universities, businesses, etc.
I am very happy with my business. Before I was sitting at home, and I was always upset. Now I have a permanent job and I am able to feed my family.
This project enabled me to return to my job and I promised, to help other people. So far, I was able to train / to hire (as daily workers) 10 people. Thus, I was able, to give something back and this gives me a good conscience.
Thank God my work is good. I cannot complain. I was able to reach and even extend my goal and I am optimistic to develop better. People like my professional work and there is always a demand to hire me.
I wish the whole region will recover soon, and that more people will have this opportunity like I did to be able to return and build up their lives again in their homeland.
4- Ceiling Layer:
I am grateful for this business, which gives me the chance to help my family. Before I had nothing and I was struggling to feed my family. Since I started my business, there have been other similar businesses with lower prices, but this did not harm my income. My prices are also affordable and in addition, the quality of my work is good. I was able to hire 6 daily workers and this makes me very happy. I dream of strengthening my income, so that I can have a bigger business with more permanent workers.
5- Men’s barber Store:
I am so grateful to be self-employed. In the beginning I was wanted to provide a fixed income. I am happy to realize that I was able to reach my goal of turnover for the month. This is a personal success for me and makes me proud. The number of customers is more or less stable; some months there is a lot of work, such as in the wedding season in summer, and other months, the work is less. But it is good as it is and I have my core customers.
6- Car Electrical Shop:
Since I opened my business there has been no other business like mine and I am happy about this. My service is unique and now I plan to develop the business. First, I need to extend my income, which is as I was expected. I need to plan everything good. Most important now is that I have constant work, a daily income and financial stability for me and my family.
7- Car Smith:
What I reached now is good, as I am self-employed and I have a monthly income and I can feed my family. Sometimes people need time to realize that it is not always about cheaper prices, but also that the quality matters. The people who come to my business appreciate my clean and professional service.
8- Gift Shop and Photo Studio:
My business is unique and the fist in the region. I do have two different services, but both do complement each other. Besides the photography I also provide services for weddings, baptisms such as invitation cards, albums and other items.
So far, the Gift ShopI was able to help 5 women to sell their products and this is also a success. For now, I am optimistic. I started my own business, I married, and I am sure I will develop it. For now, I plan step by step to develop.
I have been really very lucky with the choice of location. My business is a great success. Before I started this business I was in a bad economic situation, and this had a negative psychological effect on me. I am the only worker, and it was a lot of pressure.
Now, I don’t know how to explain my feelings. I am grateful for this business, which changed my life and my health condition. The turnover is so good, that I can dream of living in a separate house with my family and even to buy a car.
Before ISIS invaded the region, I was owner of this kiosk. When I returned, the kiosk was totally destroyed. Only, with this project, I was able to re-open and I am not disappointed by my expectations. The location of my kiosk is good. The people live close nearby and they do not need to go to far places. Most of the daily needs are available in my kiosk. In addition, I do have good and fair prices. In the holiday season I was able to hire 6 people to help me out. I am so grateful for the life I have now. Before I had no fix income, I always saw the burned kiosk and I did not know how and where to start.
Your investment for as little as $50 will get a business up and running in the Nineveh plains. it will help families pay the bills, feed and educate their children and change the local economy after ISIS destroyed everything.