Today, 3.3 million Iraq’s (approximately 10% of the total population) are displaced within the country. Families have been forced to flee their homes, communities, and livelihoods to seek solace in sprawling camps and other temporary accommodations. Local host communities are often strained to support the influx of people, leaving many displaced Iraqis struggling to find employment and provide their families.
In early 2016, AMAR launched a new project designed to address this challenge. We opened six INVEST (Inclusive Vocational and Entrepreneurship Skills Training) Centers in Baghdad, Najaf, Erbil, and Dohuk. These Centers create new economic opportunities for both internally displaced people (IDPs) and host communities while stimulating entrepreneurship at the local level.
Each Center provides the community with access to important services such as legal counsel, but the core programs are job skills training workshops. Centers offer courses in high-demand skills such as sewing, hairdressing, literacy, numeracy, English, and IT. Over the next two years, AMAR expects to provide vital skills training to more than 7,000 men and women.
Many of the participants at the Centers are parents with young children. It can be challenging to find a reliable caretaker while they attend classes so AMAR has established a childcare program with kindergarten classes in tandem to the adult courses. Each childcare center is open five to six days a week and provides a safe and stimulating environment for children to learn.
AMAR’s INVEST Centers not only provide a safe learning environment for children and improve opportunities for entrepreneurs, but they also have the support from local businesses. Once a month, the Centers host business workshops featuring guest speakers and employment fairs with local companies.
These workshops include lectures on how to start and grow a business, interact with customers and gain employment. In many cases, local business owners have expressed interest in hiring graduates or have offered continued advice and support post-graduation. In addition to vocational training, the Centers are also helping to integrate IDPs with their host communities.
Community cohesion activities bring together people from disparate groups for sporting events, arts and crafts, and cultural festivals. These activities help local and IDP communities to reconcile their differences and also provide essential psycho-social support to those that have been deeply traumatized by their recent experiences.
SUPPORT THE INVEST CENTERS WITH A DONATION
Looking ahead, AMAR plans to grow the number of courses offered at the INVEST Centers as well as provide start-up grants to new entrepreneurs. We hope that you will join us in our effort to #INVESTinIraq by making a contribution to our INVEST in Iraq campaign today.
by Sarah Hollis