Refugees contribute to their host communities in many ways, reflecting their strength, resilience and determination to re-establish their lives after being forced to flee their homes.

Here are three ways refugees give back to their host communities through three inspired business ideas.

  1. Refugees boost the economy 

Fashion designer Esperanza Tabisha arranges her latest designs in her small, corrugated-iron shop in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp. Most of the clothing is made from kitenge, a thick, shiny fabric, traditionally dyed in bright colours.

The 27-year-old businesswoman is just one of thousands of refugee business owners living in Kakuma and its neighbouring town, which have a combined population of nearly 250,000.

Esperanza started Esperanza Fashion & Design in 2011 after fleeing violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Her unique designs soon found a niche in the thriving fashion industry in Kakuma camp, attracting customers from the refugee and local communities. The local economy is now worth US$56 million, thanks to the creativity and initiative of refugees like Esperanza.

“I love being a designer and making clothes,” Esperanza says.
There’s no better feeling than having a happy client.”

Fashion designer Esperanza Tabisha works on a dress in her shop in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya. © UNHCR/Samuel Otieno 

© UNHCR/S. Mostafa

  1. Refugees are self-sufficient

Life for Rohingya people in the world’s largest refugee settlement is made sweeter by two young bakers. The best friends fled persecution in Myanmar and now live in Kutupalong camp, Bangladesh, where they opened a bakery. Every day, customers line up to buy their delicious treats.

“We make 400 to 600 khajas a day,” bakery co-owner Mohammed says.

Khajas are fried pastries coated with sugar syrup that the friends used to make at home in Myanmar. The pastries are sold for 5 taka each, which helps them provide for their families rather than relying entirely on humanitarian aid.

Despite the hardships they face, Rohingya refugees are determined to rebuild their lives and market stalls have appeared all over the settlements in Bangladesh.

  1. Refugees are resourceful

When Razan Alsous couldn’t find halloumi cheese at her local grocery store in West Yorkshire, she decided to make her own.

I had never produced cheese before, I was a pharmacist in Syria,” Alsous says. “I used an online recipe and bought second-hand catering equipment.”

Alsous, her husband and three children fled Syria after an explosion destroyed their family business. Today, Alsous heads the Yorkshire Dama Cheese Company, a successful business producing halloumi.

Work allows refugees to integrate swiftly into their new community and start making a contribution.

“When people knew I was coming from another country and establishing a business, they encouraged me,” Alsous says. “They were happy that I was bringing in something new, something different.”

You can help give refugees skills and opportunities to work and rebuild their lives with dignity.
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Cheesemaker Razan Alsous heads Yorkshire’s first halloumi cheese production company. © UNHCR

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