Abu Mohammed Yassin (50) greets Sunrise team with overflowing hospitality and good mood; he serves the team with sweets from the business he got the support, fruit juice and tea and insists they should stay for dinner and offers to kill a sheep in honor of the visit. For the first time in years, he feels hope for the future and excitement for what is ahead and despite his bad health has a spring in his step. As the team arrived the house, Abu’s aged mother started hugging the females working with the team as a reflection of her happiness feeling after getting her son the support.
Abu Mohammed and his wife have nine children with whom he shares the one-room house in the village of Gollat in Sinjar. With ISIS entering the area in 2014 targeting the ethnic minority of Yezidis, his family, being Sunni Arabs, could have stayed in their village and complied with the new Islamic rules. He however did not agree with their ideology and cruelty and could not stand seeing the injustice done to his Yazidi neighbors, friends, and colleagues. He didn’t have a lot to take with him, the family had lived in a mud house and the father worked as daily laborer in the nearby Sinjar cement factory. They barely found a car to fit the whole family on this new journey to a displacement camp, close by Erbil. The family ended up staying in Darashakran camp for five years before deciding to return to their village. The mud house had deteriorated over time and was now inhabitable for the family. He was fortunate to have supporting neighbors and extended family who gathered the money to buy bricks, cement, and some building materials to build a living room and a kitchen space for the family.
“I am very grateful to the people in Gollat for their kindness on my return. My health condition had worsened after a surgery to remove my kidney and it was now hard for me to do physical work. The people donated food and money for me and allowed me to buy things on credit from their shops.”
The cement factory reopened after a few years; however, Abu Mohammed could not return to work as he found it difficult to breathe in the heavily polluted dusty air by the factory. His brother working with the security forces earning a regular salary supported him monthly with an amount of 200,000 IQD (approx. $138). The family was living month to month increasing their debts, only able to afford the basic food items.
After an interview with Sunrise he was selected as a beneficiary to participate in the three months vocational training before receiving a grant to open his own small business. The family mentions that there has been some other NGO’s visiting their villages, but “all they do is come and register people and take the details, never to be seen again. This has made the people grow hesitant towards NGOs. But when I heard that it’s a German NGO, I knew they were going to come back and help the most vulnerable and they did!”
His wife shares proudly with a smile on her face, that her husband was the most diligent student of the three, always arriving at time and coming home with written notes and stories of what he had done on the day. Abu Mohammed adds:” I was most interested and motivated in this opportunity and often asked additional questions and tips on how to make my future business successful.” The participation in the 3-months vocational training also provided a small monthly stipend ($345) to cover transport costs and motivate the trainees to participate. After years of depending on his brother and the charity of neighbors, Abu Mohammed couldn’t believe that he was paid for attending the training, and more than double of his previous monthly income. He used the money received during these three months to buy a fridge and proudly shared the photo with Sunrise team in Sinjar “My children don’t remember the last time they saw such a nice new and shiny fridge and we are forever grateful to you for selecting us”. There was also money left over to buy curtains for the only window in the room, pour cement on the uneven mud floor and paint the walls. Their modest one-room dwelling suddenly got a new life. He also managed to pay back some of the debts to his neighbors.
Abu Mohammed is proudly showing Sunrise his certificate of completing the course on business management and basic accounting and asks his wife to bring the shiny new notebooks he has purchased in preparation for opening his grocery shop.
One to record the items bought and daily income, the second one to register the items purchased on credit: “The people were kind to me when I had no money and its my duty to help others in similar situation now.”
Before leaving he insists for the team to see the space he has selected for the business. Sunrise team approves the strategical location of the business; the shop will be located by the main road, not far from the entrance to the village. It has been agreed by the owner of the space to initially to rent the space free of cost for the first six months, with the agreement being revisited later depending on the success of the business. Abu Mohammed is optimistic for the future business and is confident that the strategic location (with no other grocery shop nearby) and his connections and good communication skills with the whole village from children to elderly will make his business successful. He also praises the training period, as sufficient in preparing and training him to be a business owner, a new position for him.
Two of his oldest daughters have now remarried, living in the same village, three of his children are still in school and two of them not of school age yet. He is hoping that the business will support all his children finishing school and his oldest son Mohammed will one day take over the business from him.
Abu Mohammed’s Grocery shop to be opened by Sunrise, with the support of ASB is part of the sustainable and resilient livelihood development in conflict-affected regions in Northern Iraq with funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).