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Fighting for survival

Somalia, October 7, 2010

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In my daily field supervision of program activities, I encounter different scenarios about the people we support. Some are strong and challenging, while others are somewhat weakened by life's difficulties.

As a humanitarian officer I am deeply involved in our programs, which provide quick and critical assistance to the communities we serve. I see the impact of these programs in the pleasant smiles on the faces of the individuals who had once despaired and lost hope for building better future for their families.

One of those individuals is 18-year-old Amran Abdi.

It was almost eight months ago when we selected Amran to participate in our women's skill training center. Amran is the only breadwinner for a family of twelve. She was selected due to the situation of the family and, unlike her teen peers who go to school, she used to wash clothes for income in order to fight the survival of her family.

As a beneficiary of Mercy Corps' three-month skill training program, which is designed to equip both women and men with highly marketable job skills in the local markets, schooling wasn’t easy for her — she was still washing clothes as soon as classes ended.

While I was working closely with this young lady, I noticed that positive thinking is a power and absolutely necessary in harsh times. She is fighting for survival and, at the same time, optimistic whenever you see her.

When the three-month training ended, she became part of a cooperative group that Mercy Corps supported to start their beauty salon business. They received basic equipment and materials for their business, as well as access to revolving loans to embark on their business operations.

Just a few days ago, I visited the salon and I was surprised to meet Amran and her colleagues running a very successful beauty salon business. It had already reached such a level that they were able to order special equipment from the neighboring countries of Yemen and Ethiopia!

The first time you enter the salon, you notice successful ladies with smiling faces, and happiness is visible in their gestures. Their lifestyle has changed dramatically; they came from a point where they were barely surviving, and now they are acting like entrepreneurs, making orders, building relationships with different customers and suppliers and inventing new designs for their business.

These young entrepreneurs helped themselves in a way beyond imagination, and they are very thankful that Mercy Corps came to help them with this peaceful change.