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Crafting new opportunities for refugees

Crafting new opportunities for refugees
How woodworking skills are empowering vulnerable Syrian refugees in Lebanon
There’s sawdust in the air, whirring sounds of machinery, and new livelihood opportunities being carved out of wood. Inside a bustling carpentry workshop near to Lebanon’s second largest city Tripoli, 19 new graduates of a carpentry training are showing off their new pieces of furniture.

The 2017 Vulnerability Assessment for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon (VASyR) found that 91 percent of Syrian refugee households remain food insecure to some degree. Limited access to economic resources was highlighted as one of the main challenges faced by Syrian refugee households, limiting both their access to food and the possibility of sustaining livelihoods.

Thanks to the generosity of German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) , WFP in Lebanon is complementing traditional humanitarian assistance with projects involving both Syrian refugees and Lebanese nationals to diversify their livelihood opportunities and earn an income along the way.

Specifically, WFP gives cash assistance to individuals enrolled in livelihood training activities such as carpentry courses. This particular training is run by WFP’s partner UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization).

All of the participants live in and around Tripoli where there is an abundance of sustainable wood. However, there is a gap in the market as relevant trainings either do not exist or are costly. These participants who expressed an interest in learning such skills are paid whilst attending and upon completing the course through WFP’s e-card system.

“I am making small tables now, but one day I’ll make a small business,” explained Radwan.

Beneath the piles of wood shavings, there is a huge ambition. 38-year-old Radwan is using the course as a means to an end.

“I need the cash now to buy medicine for my wife — she has cancer — but when she is better I’ll focus on starting a small business,” he explained. “Everyone needs tables.”

Similarly, Mohamad has immediate and longer term needs for an income.

“My kids are enrolled in school but we don’t have the cash to pay for the bus so some weeks they just stay at home,” he explained. “I am constantly worried about not being able to provide for my children.”

The reasons for participating in the training are numerous, but they are all rooted in a common problem: limited economic resources. Transferable skills like those learned in the workshop can be used today and in the future, here and there, wherever the participants find themselves.

Read more about WFP’s work in Lebanon .