Youth entrepreneurship programme helps migrants restart life in Greece

ATHENS (Xinhua) – Fariba Amini, 21, who fled war in Afghanistan three years ago, has started her own business in Athens thanks to a training programme aiming to help the unemployed youth.

She is one of the 300 aspiring young people who completed the youth entrepreneurship programme “Business for Youth” and succeeded in turning her business idea into practice.

“I’ve never had the opportunity to go to school. I don’t have any education. But since the time I came to this class and now I’m at a different level,” Fariba Amini told Xinhua in a recent interview.

“I know how to control expenses. I know how to decide on pricing. I can do everything now after these classes,” she added.

Like Amini, 37-year-old Samin Razaghe, who came from Iran with her 16-year-old son, also joined the programme as she waited on her asylum request process.

Razaghe dreamed to be a make-up artist. “The certificate gave me self-esteem. Self-confidence. It opened new doors, now I have hope, I know I could do a lot of things,” she said.

Samin Razaghe, a 37-year-old refugee from Iran, works as a make-up artist in Athens, Greece. – XINHUA

Addressed to refugees and asylum seekers, migrants with residence permits in Greece and unemployed Greeks, the programme gives people from vulnerable groups the opportunity to struggle with unemployment and exclusion, to create and bloom.

“The most outstanding value of the programme is that it is encouraging people to work on their ideas. To think that they have the opportunities and they can make effort into creating something that is sustainable. I believe that especially for women, it’s a fantastic opportunity to start thinking about entrepreneurship,” Lead for Community Engagement and Entrepreneurship at Solidarity Now Elena Mavromichali said.

The programme “Business for Youth” is implemented by Solidarity Now, powered by the Citi Foundation, supported by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and, in collaboration with the Social Enterprise Knowl.

During each training cycle the curriculum includes courses for the development of soft skills, entrepreneurship, branding as well as networking with other entrepreneurs, thus encouraging personal guidance and participants’ empowerment.

“I feel independent. Since I was a kid, I wanted to be independent,” Amini said.

Born and raised in Afghanistan, Amini had to leave her country with her parents and siblings when her brother was killed.

She spent a whole year in the state-run reception facility at the former airport of Elliniko, a southern suburb of Athens.

She was depressed and her only way out was to watch tutorial videos on the internet on how to make bracelets.

She recalled the days when she had only five euros in her pocket to buy some strings and materials to make her first pieces.

In the design studio where she works, she makes backpacks from the rubber of the inflatable boats that refugees used to cross Aegean Sea and reached Greek islands from the Turkish borders, and from the life-jackets they wore to keep them afloat.

In addition to the customers here in Athens, she also sends her designs to Germany, in an organisation that supports refugee women.

Holding Greek ID card and passport now, Amini sees Greece as her new home and dreams big.

“My future goal is to open a big store here. The headquarters is going to be here, but I’m going to open different branches in different countries. That’s my goal,” she said. Razaghe also wants to open her own place and start her business. She even wants to continue her studies in her field. “I wanted to be free as a woman”.

Though from different backgrounds, both Razaghe and Amini like most of the participants of the programme, they overcame their barriers and got motivated to build their own life from scratch with the guidance and support of experts.

“They’re always trying to show their best side and they’re so motivated. They’re trying to digest all the way. That also motivates us and our staff,” Mavromichali said.