Refugees, Indonesians ready get into business

UNHCR congratulates dozens of young refugees and Indonesians who recently completed an entrepreneurship training, which empowers and improve their self-reliance and livelihood skills.

Training graduates proudly showing their certificates upon graduating from the program. ©UNHCR/T. Kurniasari

Farhan’s face beamed with happiness as he received a graduation certificate from UNHCR Representative in Indonesia, Thomas Vargas, and ILO Director for Indonesia, Michiko Miyamoto, in Jakarta. The Afghan refugee recently participated in the “Indonesian and Refugee Youth Entrepreneurship Training” a six-month program in Jakarta where he learned from local and international business experts on how to set up a business.

This is a good opportunity for Farhan* as he’s learning to develop selling a potato chips business. “Through this program, I learned about business marketing and financial management. It also helps me to expand my network by getting to know the local businesspeople,” Farhan said.

Another refugee, Farah, also expressed her gratitude for having the opportunity to join the training. “I learned from local entrepreneurs that patience is very important at the start of a business. At times when there is no customer, no profit, or during hard times,” said Farah, an Eritrean refugee who has been living in Indonesia for one year.

“I learned how to be a risk taker, how to manage my time, how to be optimistic and a visionary. And to believe that nothing is impossible even though I’m a refugee. The most important thing is to know other people, integrate with others and respect our differences and cultures,” she added.

Some participants showcase their business ideas and products. ©UNHCR

The training, which was a collaboration between UNHCR, ILO, UNHCR’s partner and philanthropic organization Dompet Dhuafa and the Atma Jaya Catholic University (Atma Jaya), brought together 100 young Indonesians and 100 refugees and empowered them with skills, which to improve their self-reliance and livelihood opportunities.

In a six-month period, participants learned to develop business ideas and explore possibilities of collaboration between successful local entrepreneurs and Indonesian youth. ILO and UNHCR believe that this training will have a positive impact on Indonesians by providing basis for economic empowerment to local residents and refugees alike, which will help to strengthen the mutual understanding between refugees and the communities hosting them. At the end of the training, the participants had a chance to showcase their business ideas and products.

Indonesian participants and facilitators also learned a lot through this program. Ingrid Nathania Wongso, a facilitator from Atma Jaya University, said it was a two-way learning as she learned about the refugees’ culture, language, country, religion, family, life and stories. “It gives me a better understanding and meaningful knowledge about all of you [refugees]. The most important thing that you taught me is to never give up, to appreciate everything you have in this life, and to never stop having hope,” said Inggrid during the graduation day.

Umar Limber, a local participant, was glad to get to know the refugees as he rarely heard about them before. “It’s like an international class for me because I got to meet participants from various nationalities. I think this program is good for them since they don’t have access to education here,” said Umar, who just started his business in cultivating guava and chili in Bogor, West Java.

UNHCR and ILO hope to continue this collaboration. “It’s only the beginning. From here, you will take the tools that you have learned in this very important creative initiative to move forward and hopefully create some success stories that would be the first for everyone to build upon, to make sure that everyone can continue this program,” said Thomas Vargas to the graduates during the graduation day.

UNHCR Representative in Indonesia Thomas Vargas congratulates a refugee during the graduation ceremony as ILO Indonesia Director for Indonesia Michiko Miyamoto (right) looks on. ©UNHCR/T. Kurniasari