UNHCR self-reliance grants open doors for refugees and asylum seekers

73 refugees and asylum-seekers received a small self-reliance grant from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in 2018, and got a chance to learn a new profession, earn a living and contribute to the society.

It’s graduation day at a cooking school in Kyiv. Nineteen-year-old Yahye takes a look at his one-question final exam. Students must answer the question successfully in order to receive their graduation certificate. Yahye smiles – he knows the answer.

The budding chef arrived in Ukraine as a refugee and unaccompanied minor. At only 17, he fled the war in his home country of Somalia, avoiding persecution of the armed group, Al-Shabab.

“When I was 14, fellow boys from my hometown and I were kidnapped by gang men. We were away for 39 days. My mother was so worried about me. Fortunately, they let us go, but we were afraid they would come back. Five of my friends were re-captured. My family decided to do everything possible to send me away to a safe place,” Yahye said.

Students must answer the question successfully in order to receive their graduation certificate.

Yahye found safety and security in Ukraine. He is now one of the 73 refugees and asylum-seekers to receive a small self-reliance grant from UNHCR, a program that encourages independence and personal development for newcomers.

“Self-reliance refers to the ability of individuals, households or communities to meet their essential needs and enjoy their human rights in a sustainable manner and to live with dignity,” said Pablo Mateu, the UNHCR Representative in Ukraine. “Self-reliant persons of concern lead independent and productive lives and are better able to enjoy their rights, while also contributing to their host societies.”

The UNHCR also provided grants to small businesses in the woodworking, food production, farming, beekeeping, construction, and beauty industries. Willing to undergo vocational and qualification training, Yahye received the grant to take a course and learn a profession. He chose to attend cooking school after spending last summer volunteering with a Ukrainian charity that distributes food to homeless people.

Yahye found safety and security in Ukraine.

Nineteen-year-old Yahye is one of the recipients of UNHCR self-reliance grants

“This was the key reason I have decided to become a cook. Food is very important for people. In my home country, so many people do not have enough food. Many children are malnourished. Now that I have my certificate, I hope I can start my career and become independent and successful in the future. I want to support my family and help poor people,” he said.

Self-reliance grants are part of a wider strategic approach by UNHCR to equip recipients with tangible skills for a future in their new home. The motivated Yahye was the perfect candidate.

“The first time I met Yahye was when he was sent to Kyiv’s psycho-social rehabilitation centre for unaccompanied or separated children,” says Marianna Kippa, an UNHCR Senior Protection Assistant. “He is always positive. No matter how hard his life is, he decisively moves towards being a self-reliant person, an agent of change in his community, and an active citizen.” 

Yahe together with UNHCR Senior Protection Assistant Marianna Kippa.


This article was edited thanks to the support of an online volunteer UNV Emily Theodore. Find volunteering opportunities at https://www.onlinevolunteering.org/en

For more information please contact Victoria Andrievska, Associate Communication/PI Officer, UNHCR Ukraine (+380 50) 413 8404, [email protected]

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