donne cei micro progetto

Education, training and work: success stories in Syria thanks to the support of the Italian Episcopal Conference

Veronica Brocca2 June 2023

The future of Syria is being written today. Starting with women and children. Thanks to a project born in the heart of some cities, we offer a job opportunity to displaced women in Lattakia and families living in the poorest neighborhoods of East Aleppo. Having a job opportunity here in Syria does not only mean being able to feed your family and make ends meet with dignity, but also reducing child labor, very present in the poor neighborhoods of Aleppo, in favor of a recovery and educational path for children and adolescents.

The Franciscan center of Lattakia is located in the complex of the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and provides support to poor and displaced families. For several years it has been assisting about eighty women, mostly widows with dependent families or in serious need of economic support. Here women are trained through professional courses and helped to start a business.

About fifty of them follow the training courses for the cutting and sewing activity thanks to the implementation of the “Micro project” program.

CEI Micro project
CEI Micro project

Nijoud Shahoud

“We lived a simple and dignified life, together with my husband Nasser and our two children.” Nijoud Shahoud, 43, recounts his experience. “To help Nasser, I started selling cosmetics online and things were going well. Until 2020, when the Coronavirus took away my husband. Overnight, I had to find a way to support my children on my own.

Without a second thought, I headed to the Pro Terra Sancta center and asked about the Micro Project I had heard about. Believe me, it was God’s hand that brought me here. I enrolled in the program and through the project I managed to rent a shop, fill it with goods and sell them. I’m a very good shopkeeper!” She and her colleagues laugh and confirm. “Through this activity I can feed my children and give them an education.” With a big smile on her face, she thanks everyone for giving her the opportunity to change the course of her life and improve her professional skills.

CEI Micro women's project
CEI Micro women's project

Lina Halab

Sitting next to her is Lina Halab , 52, who wants to tell us her story. “I have always been a housewife and I also lived a very dignified life with my husband and our three children in a village near Idlib. Until one day in 2012, when I was forced to leave my home and go to Lattakia, because it was too dangerous in Idlib. My husband decided to stay to protect his land.” In Lattakia, with three young children, Lina’s lifeline was tailoring, the art of which she had learned under the supervision of the Franciscan nuns in her village in Idlib.

“I love cutting and sewing, but you know, nowadays with all these fast machines it’s not easy to keep up and definitely not enough to feed my family. Then the miracle happened. The Franciscan friars – who collaborate with Pro Terra Sancta and the CEI in the project financed thanks to the funds of 8xmille – told me that they were looking for talented women in sewing to be employed in the “Micro Project” program. I immediately started the training course to learn how to work with the sewing machine. I really like this job; With the machine you waste less energy, you have less stress and the products I create have multiplied compared to before».

Meanwhile, Lina gathered here in Lattakia with her husband and started her own business. He smiles and concludes, “Now I’m happy, finally.”

CEI Micro women's project
CEI Micro women's project

Nada Anjan

The creation of small businesses and start-ups means promoting the employment of the local population. Women, in particular, can contribute to the economic growth of the country, encouraging virtuous exchanges between different communities, religious and social, and promoting integration and communion of goods.

All the women pause their work and tell us how they came to the program. The latest to speak is Nada Anjan, 47, a mother of four.

“I lived in the heart of Idlib with my husband Maurice, who was a mechanic. But in 2014, the war forced us to move from one rented house to another. Six years later, Maurice was hit at work by a small piece of iron that took away his sight. I think I fell into depression after the accident. I found myself alone paying for my husband’s food, school supplies, bills, rent and surgery.” Nada’s eyes are shining, but she recovers. “Thank God, after a short period of dark time, a neighbor casually told me about the activities taking place here. The next day I came here and was selected as an apprentice.”

“In the future – he continues – I will be able to start my own business to continue supporting my family. I love my colleagues, the Franciscan friars, all the people around the church and I am very grateful to Pro Terra Sancta and the donors who made this possible.”

Supporting children and women in East Aleppo

In a country like Syria, destroyed and paralyzed by twelve years of war, by an increasingly penalizing embargo and by a disastrous social and economic situation, this initiative aims to give development prospects to some sections of the population in serious difficulty.

The overall objective of the project “Education, training and work: a path of hope for needy women and marginalized children in the most degraded areas of Aleppo and Latakia – Syria” is therefore to support education, training, job placement, protection, aimed at the local community. The activities are beginning to bear fruit. And not only in Lattakia.

In the project carried out in collaboration with the CEI, we also support two active centers in eastern Aleppo, with the aim of assisting children born to women victims of violence and abuse during the jihadist occupation by ISIS and for the most part abandoned on the streets without being registered in the registry office. Pro Terra Sancta coordinates a very important project entitled “A name and a future”. In the workplace, also here in Aleppo, the “education, training and work” project offers a job opportunity to women and their families living in the slum of East Aleppo, where a job opportunity for adults also means reduce child labor, unfortunately very present in the poor neighborhoods of Aleppo, in favor of a recovery and educational path for children and adolescents.

In East Aleppo, the Custody of the Holy Land and Pro Terra Sancta supports 220 unemployed adults (150 women and 70 men) with families with serious poverty problems and children forced to work in the streets of the neighborhood. Adults are trained or retrained professionally through training courses and helped to start a business.

The project also helps at least 300 children and adolescents in eastern Aleppo who do not attend school and do odd jobs in the streets.

In the centers of Aleppo, we meet the children and enter into dialogue with the families and offer them a path of protection that includes the educational, social and psychological component. A small step to dream of a different future. Starting with those who are marginalized: women and children.

Women Syria