Majdoine's Resilience and Mostafa’s Hope Shine Through After Losses in the Türkiye-Syria Earthquake

Published: Feb 14, 2024 Reading time: 5 minutes
Majdoine's Resilience and Mostafa’s Hope Shine Through After Losses in the Türkiye-Syria Earthquake
© Foto: Omar Khattab

One year after the devastating earthquake that struck northern Syria and southern Türkiye, stories of resilience and hope continue to emerge. Homes, schools, factories, workshops, and businesses were partially damaged or destroyed, impacting people's lives. Losing one’s livelihood that took years to establish is an unimaginable scenario. For the war-affected people in Northern Syria, it was a nightmare. 

Sustainable Resilience and Self-Dependence through Businesses Restoration 

The Türkiye-Syria earthquake hit an already war-stricken area, impacting the livelihoods and businesses of the locals and increasing the suffering of people already exhausted and struggling economically. People affected by the disaster had to cope with the new reality of living in tents or damaged homes while worrying about rehabilitating their homes and restoring their livelihoods.

Majdoline, a mother of seven whose husband has been missing for years, lost her detergent shop. She and her son had opened and ran it for years, but all their products and materials spoiled following the disaster.

Majdoline and eldest son Ahmed overcame the arrest of his father, who used to be the family’s breadwinner, by establishing a home-based workshop to make and mix detergents in 2015. Ahmed learned the profession while working abroad to make ends meet. “I wanted to open my detergent workshop to support my family. At first, I worked from home. I started with a low capital, distributing the first products to my neighbours to promote my business. I didn’t use to work before, but I wasn’t ashamed to have a shop and work,” says Majdoline.

With many facilities reduced to rubble in northwest Syria, the commercial sector has suffered visible stagnation, causing steep price increases and a sharp decrease in working opportunities and demand for goods.

To support and restore impacted small businesses in northwest Syria, we launched a Small Business Grant Restoration project with funds from Alliance 2015 partners Helvetas and Swiss Solidarity to enhance early recovery efforts and initiatives. The project targeted families depending on their small businesses and enabled them to regain their self-dependence and resilience by helping them rebuild.

“I learned about the project and registered for it. A team from PIN surveyed my shop, and I was later accepted. My happiness was indescribable. I was genuinely happy for me and my children,” says Majdoline. She was amongst 232 people in her hometown who received support to restore their businesses. 

“I received a two-instalment grant and purchased shelves, raw materials, barrels, and various detergents. I added new items to the shop, like household items,” says Majdoline. 

Despite their challenging experiences, Majdoline is hopeful and maintains a smile and a spirit of courage. “I have always been interested in working, and I’m always hopeful. So, I want to improve my business further. I would genuinely thank everyone who was part of this project,” Majdoline concludes.

Hope amidst destruction

Stories of despair, challenge, and hope also include the young people who already were already dealing with war and the loss of work or study opportunities. Mostafa, like many of his peers, is just one example. Until 2013, Mostafa was a Mechanics Faculty student and hoped to become a Mechanical Engineer. His dreams and ambitions vanished due to the war and the dire security situation across Syria.

Despite leaving university, Mostafa did not give up and managed to learn how to cut glass panes. In 2016, he opened a small shop to cut and sell glass and carbon fibre panes in Azmarin, which is close to his city.

Mostafa recalls when the February earthquake hit, “We felt our home shaking violently, and we got up. I hugged the children and ran outside. People were running and screaming, saying Khaled’s building was destroyed.” As there was significant destruction and a high death toll in this town, Mostafa did not check his glass shop until later. He told us, “I only remembered to come and check on the shop after thirteen days. My main concern was my parents, neighbours, and family.”

He was shocked that most panes were completely broken and unusable. 

“I closed the shop for more than a month as the whole market was closed because people had left to tents and camps for safety. I did not think at that time of any humanitarian support from any organisation,” says Mostafa. With estimated losses of almost $2.000, it was challenging for Mostafa to re-establish his business. Mostafa was excited when he saw our project for earthquake-affected businesses. He immediately registered and was accepted.

“I attended a five-day training and then received a grant worth $1.000. I hoped to start my business again with the support I received,” says Mostafa.

“I also bought mirrors. I am really grateful for the organisation and the teams and would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart,” says Mostafa. “These small businesses play an important role in the village economy,” Mostafa concludes.

Hardships can make you stronger and teach you to overcome challenges, and this is a lesson Mostafa learned from the earthquake. He never lost his spirit of hope and desire amidst the destruction and sadness.

The support for these 232 business owners to restore their businesses and be self-dependent would not have been possible without the generous support of Alliance 2015 partner Helvetas and Swiss Solidarity.

Autor: Omar Khattab

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