The contribution of migrants and displaced people is fundamental to the social and economic growth of our societies. Their valuable skills and their willingness to sacrifice enrich the new communities they live in as long as they are properly welcomed and assisted through initiatives that promote their self-recovery .
Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) works to improve livelihoods for the most vulnerable across the world – not only from an economic perspective, but also to restore dignity, confidence and hope. In Lebanon, an exhausted country after an unprecedent crisis with no signs of recovery, this kind of support is highly needed since the consequences of the collapse are especially acute for non-Lebanese citizens.
Mohammad (31) and his wife, Dijla (31), reached Beirut in 2012 fleeing the war in Syria, and he soon started working hard as a barber until he was able to open his own barbershop. Similarly, Dijla strived to find a job and did different trainings on beauty and general maintenance, but never managed to put them into practice. Their only aim was—and continue to be—to build a better future for their two kids. Before the crisis, Mohammad’s business was relatively successful. He even hired an assistant and was volunteering by giving personal skills sessions to vulnerable children in his free time. He was actively contributing to Lebanese society, proving that refugees can play a significant role in social change.
However, in 2020, everything changed. The blast that destroyed part of Beirut harmed not only the business but also the entire family’s psychological well-being. He strenuously restored the damages a few months later, but the crisis continued worsening until today, making Mohammad unable to make ends meet. The lack of electricity and the alarming inflation that affects all basic products and services including rents prevent him from reducing the prices and getting more costumers. He is very proactive and tried to install batteries and solar panels in the shop, but the costs are far from affordable, and everything is so expensive now that even the kids stopped attending school. Many basic needs are not covered, but the education of his children is, undeniably, his top priority.
“I would really do whatever it takes (…) People constantly want to be better, and I am very ambitious, but I never had the chance. I enjoy my career and my hobby, but I am willing to work in any field to support my children”, Mohammad admits.
Although he dreams about returning to Syria with his family one day, he would do anything but come back until a more stable economy in the country allows them to start a new life. After 10 years of displacement, their situation has become protracted and requires longer-term solutions.
JRS believes that the best way to serve displaced people is to offer them sustainable support. We acknowledge the resourcefulness of refugees, their power to overcome challenges by themselves. Therefore, we will provide the family with cash assistance aiming to strengthen Mohammad’s business and his capacity to increase their income in the medium-long term.
By building resilience, we can reduce aid dependency and help refugees boost local economies while promoting social cohesion and inclusion. We can create a better future for everyone, but more awareness and global investment is needed to fulfill this mission.
“It’s hard to build a future in a place where the local community is already devastated and everyone is facing the same problems. We might be considered as a burden of society, but we actually are not because we want to contribute. We should support each other as much as possible”, Mohammad concludes.