When Silva fled her Qamishli home in northeastern Syria in 2013, she did not know at the time that she will end up as a refugee with her husband and child in a tent in the Dar Shukran camp in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.
Silva, 30, dreamed of a normal life and of remaining in her hometown, close to her family and friends. The Syrian war, however, forced her and a quarter of a million Syrians to escape to neighboring Kurdistan.
An ad by the Swedish QANDIL NGO on a social media website has given her hope for a new life. She enrolled at the beginning year in a vocational training workshop where she was taught sewing and embroidering.
“It was the first time that I ever used a sewing machine,” she said.
After a month and a half of training, she earned an internationally-recognized certificate.
“I learned everything I could about the profession,” said Silva. With help from her family, she bought a sewing machine and opened a small shop in the camp. The shop generates her a good income and her husband helps her purchase cloth and threads from Erbil.
The shop gave Silva a new lease on life as she is now occupying her time doing something useful.
Her husband is also grateful for his wife’s chance to work.
“Job opportunities in the camp are close to none. I help my wife and we earn enough money to cover living expenses here,” he said.
Head of QANDIL’s project in the Shukran camp Shamal Mawloud explained that the NGO has been operating in Iraq since 1991. It opened its office in the camp in December.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the organization offers courses on photography, mobile phone and computer maintenance, electricity, sewing and others.
The 15 four-hour courses are taught over three weeks and are free for students.
He explained that the majority of Syrian refugees have difficulty finding a job in Kurdistan because they do not have a vocational certificate. QANDIL’s certificate is being given in cooperation with the German GIZ organization and it is internationally recognized.
Some 1,200 refugees have already taken the training course, he revealed. They went on to find jobs inside or outside the Shukran camp.
Baghdad native Mariam Abdul Karim heads the sewing and embroidering unit of the training course. She said that the majority of Syrian refugees enrolled in the training are aged between 30 and 50.
Silva, she said, started from zero and rapidly became so successful that she now operates a sewing shop.