Work in Progress: creating opportunities for Lebanese youth
“Today it is much easier to sell sandwiches than to be an agricultural engineer.”
George, has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, but he is a baker. He lives in Lebanon, a country that has not offered him any opportunities for a long time. His professional profile is too high for an increasingly poor market. Like him, many and more young people are fleeing. And it is increasingly difficult to find a job. The Lebanese pound is constantly depreciating, and there is a lack of liquidity to face all kinds of expenses. The lack of prospects is what hurts the most. For this reason, over a year ago, the “Work in Progress” project was born, promoted by Pro Terra Sancta and now in its second edition.
Work In Progress: the project
The process is quite simple and concerns young people who are between twenty and thirty years of age: those who wish to present an idea for a start-up, and among those who are selected (there are 31 projects admitted this year), twelve are rewarded with a non-repayable loan . To create a company, offer jobs and opportunities. And dream of a different future, even in the country with the highest food inflation rate in the world. “I have land, I would like to put it to income. Can you help me?” “I’m going to run my parents’ business. How do I do it?” The young people who participated in this first selection are full of questions. “Seeing these young people who want to set up a company in such a complicated context is an example for everyone, including us”. Paolo Fumagalli, accountant and professor at the Catholic University of Milan, was the first to get involved. In addition to him, a team of great professionals in the board of directors. Among others Daniele Sacco, Mario Mauro, Mario Sala, Domenico Pietrantonio. Friends of a lifetime, just returned from Beirut where they interviewed the young protagonists of the second edition (of which 26 discovered the initiative through social networks). “I visited a coffee shop run entirely by disabled people – continues Fumagalli – and fully functional”. The room manager is autistic and the waiters have Down syndrome. Wassim, the owner, decided to offer a job opportunity to its employees. Some have decided to apply for this edition of Work In Progress and to create a small business, a bar of their own. “I’m happy for them,” says Wassim, “and I don’t see them as potential competitors, but as an opportunity they have to become more autonomous and independent.” Daniele Sacco, Human Resources Director at Mondadori, met many young people who “They have shown – he says – a great desire to build for oneself and for others. They are a spark of life and we want it to be nurtured. We started by sharing with them the need to set up a business, but we slowly came to share life: its purpose, its charm”. The country badly needs it.
Living in Lebanon today
The situation is constantly worsening, and it often happens to see cars that run without license plates because the motorization has been on strike for months. The people who assault the banks. Hunger, and fatigue. “And yet – says Mario Sala, business consultant and former councilor in the Lombardy region – I didn’t see anyone complaining, just smiles on their faces and desire to do. And that’s what it builds.”. Like the two guys (20 and 21 years old) who together with a woman proposed a start-up dedicated to parties: they organize weddings, baptisms, birthdays. “We must not lose the desire to celebrate. And to do this it is necessary that everything is well taken care of: this is also part of the beauty of life“. In the end, Paola emerges: two master’s degrees obtained at the Sorbonne and a curriculum that would open doors everywhere. She is also there to submit the request for a company dedicated to a type of hyper-technological agriculture designed at more than 1000 meters high. “Why are you here?” they ask her. Moved, and grateful, she replies: “I’m here for my grandfather, who taught me the connection with the land. I am here to give something back to my family, who made so many sacrifices to make me study. And I am here for my land: if all the young people left, what would remain of Lebanon?”