The Refugee Fellowship Initiative set up by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, the Lithuanian Diversity Charter, the Lithuanian Red Cross and four international organizations and companies is a win-win for both refugees and businesses. Scroll down to watch the video.
Shoaib arrived in Vilnius, Lithuania, in 2021 with 10 years of work experience as part of an international NGO in Afghanistan. After being forced to flee his home country, he has now found himself re-building much of his life in Lithuania
“As a refugee coming to Lithuania and looking for a job, there are certain challenges,” says Shoaib. “You may apply for the job and you may get shortlisted and do the interviews, but at the end of the day, because you don’t have a background here in Lithuania, it may be hard for the employer to arrive at a decision.”
After months of job searching, Shoaib was selected to participate in the newly established Refugee Fellowship Initiative and was matched with the fast growing online second-hand clothing company Vinted. Since the spring of 2023, he is pursuing a paid internship in the People, Growth and Development team at the company’s headquarters in Vilnius.
The Refugee Fellowship Initiative was set up in early 2023 by UNHCR, the Lithuanian Diversity Charter and the Lithuanian Red Cross and is run in cooperation with the international companies and organizations Swedbank, Vinted, Vilnius Municipality, and the Nordic Council of Ministers Office in Lithuania. Shoaib is one of nine professionals with refugee background who have so far benefitted from the initiative.
“Seeing the demand for professional people in the labour market and seeing that a lot of them come as refugees in Lithuania, it gave us this thought that we might try to bridge companies and refugees,” explained Rugilė Trumpytė, CEO of the Lithuanian Diversity Charter, one of the organizations behind the initiative.
Through the Refugee Fellowship Initiative, companies have benefitted from being connected with professionals through the programme.
It gave us this thought that we might try to bridge companies and refugees
Benefitting from having Shoaib onboard and from being among the organizations behind the initiative, Viktorija Jaksebagaitė, Senior Director of People at Vinted, explained that, “It’s good, meaningful and the right thing to do for us as a business, and actually for all of the business ecosystem here in Lithuania. It’s good for our country. It’s just beneficial for all of us.” She added that they heard about the programme from the Lithuanian Diversity Charter, which the company is a member of. “We didn’t need to worry about work permits. The organization provided us with a shortlist of candidates. They did initial interviews.”
As beneficiaries of international protection in Lithuania, all fellows already had the right to work in the country.
For Shoaib, the Refugee Fellowship Initiative has provided an opportunity to get his foot in the door of the Lithuanian labour market and to be able to re-build his career in his new home country.
“I am really hopeful and I can see that during this period of the fellowship programme will help me to achieve that goal.”