After more than a decade of war, for most Syrians, living conditions remain bleak.
Homes, schools and life-sustaining infrastructure have been destroyed, causing millions of Syrians to be in need of humanitarian aid. The majority of the population lives in poverty, struggling to fend for themselves.
Through the support of the European Union (EU), the IRC has been able to provide clients with monetary aid and financial training to improve their prospects for the future. Against a backdrop of uncertainty, this allows families a chance at leading a self-sufficient life.
Amina*, a 47-year old mother living in northeast Syria, knows first-hand what it means to have war completely turn your life around — but through this experience, she’s well-versed in making do with whatever is available to her.
When the war in Syria started, Amina and her family — including her husband and four children – had no other choice than to leave their home. They were only able to return to their home three years later, finding it in complete ruin. "We lived very difficult days,” says Amina, recalling what her family went through. “The war affected us all. I lost eight people from my family, including my mother and sister.”
Having to confront the reality of losing what was once a stable life, Amina’s husband grew increasingly depressed, and his mental health started to decline. It was then that Amina knew she had to take matters into her own hands.
Amina and her family found temporary shelter thanks to a community member who invited them to their home. However, as they now live in an unfinished house with no windows or doors, it became impossible for them to fend off the cold during the winter.
Amina and her husband were eventually referred to the IRC's EU-funded cash assistance program. In the coming months, Amina would receive enough money to meet her family’s basic needs, including providing them with food and vital medicine.
As part of the program, Amina attended financial management courses. "I learned how to save some money, reduce borrowing money, how to manage money and how to start a project,” she says, explaining the training she had received.
With the financial assistance and knowledge she had acquired, Amina felt confident enough to invest in her own project: she bought a foosball table for children and teenagers in her community to play and enjoy themselves, but also as a way for her to earn her own money. The money she makes from this project has allowed her to save up for the winter months.
This freedom helps me in buying food and medicine for my family, and saving a part for the future.
In the future, Amina wishes to expand her business and become financially independent. She wants to rent a shop and provide additional games and gaming consoles. However and most importantly, with the experience she has gained, she wants to support women around her so that they also have the chance to kickstart their own journey to financial independence — as she has managed to do.
Being part of the EU-funded program has changed Amina’s life drastically. The self-confidence she’s developed – and the freedom she’s found – after starting her own business is the most important thing to her. “I feel that I’m stronger than before,” she says, a glimpse of happiness in her eyes, “because I can support my family now."
*Pseudonym, name has been changed.
The International Rescue Committee partners with the European Union to provide life-saving support to people caught in conflict and disasters around the world. Our work funded by the EU enables people to survive, recover and rebuild their lives.