Rana Mansour, Lebanon

Entrepreneur and client of Al Majmoua, a microfinance organization and IFC partner.

We used to live in the Yarmouk camp, which hosts the largest Palestinian refugee community in the south of Syria. It was located in a conflict area near Damascus, and living conditions became very difficult. So we had to leave. We fled in 2012. The whole family. I came to Lebanon with my husband and my six children. When we arrived, my husband wasn’t able to find a job so he kept going back and forth between Lebanon and Syria trying to find work. Two years later, after failing to secure a job, he died of a stroke in Syria. We were all here in Lebanon when it happened. And now I’m a widow trying to support my family.

At the beginning, the situation was very difficult here at the Shatila camp. My husband couldn’t find a job. So we lived on our savings when we came here, and on in-kind support from families and neighbors, who gave us money, and sometimes furniture, like this heater which helps us survive the cold weather. We lived with my family for three months until we managed to rent a small room of our own. Also, I received financial support from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. It totaled about $25 dollars a month for each of my children and they paid $100 dollars of my monthly $400 dollar rent. That helped a bit, but I needed to find a job especially after my husband passed away.

I started cooking and selling Syrian food and did some embroidery work. My older sons, aged 17 and 15, helped me sell my products to neighbors here in the camp. I heard about Al Majmoua from my female neighbors. Together, the four of us applied for a group loan. I needed to continue to fund my small catering and embroidery business. Each of us received $500 which I used to buy raw material, and expand my business to include selling clothes and scarfs. I buy them from wholesalers and sell them to my friends and neighbors here in the camp. I was desperately trying to make a living. The loan process was very easy and quick, and staff at Al Majmoua were very helpful. I want to apply for a bigger loan next year, once I settle this one. Also, I was able to find a full-time, nine-to-five job at private center that provides psychological support to relocated families and children. I’ve been working with them for over seven months now. This is helping me repay the loan and pay for my kids’ tuition as well.

I want to be able to support my family and meet their expectations. My 10-year-old son, Ibrahim, wants to be a hair dresser when he grows up. He is in fourth grade now. My daughter is in eighth grade, and studying here is more difficult than in Syria, but I can’t provide private tutors. She has to study on her own. Three to four years in this difficult environment made me and my family strong. I hope our situation will get better soon.