Expatriates

Starting with 'Empty Pockets', Syrian Refugee Becomes Successful Shoemaker

Morocco World News

Rabat - A Syrian refugee has found solace in Morocco by running a successful shoemaking workshop, reports the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

After fleeing the war in Syria, Diyaa, 37, had to start from scratch in Morocco where he settled with his wife and kids.Diyaa started a small business in Casablanca, making sandals, clogs and lace-up shoes, while his family lived in the outskirts of Morocco’s economic capital.

“At the beginning, I worked for 18 to 20 hours a day and lived 20 kilometres away from Casablanca,” he said. “Each day, I had a two-hour ride one way to get to work.”

UNHCR provided him with his first sewing machine as part of an incoming-generating initiative, allowing him to boost his small business.

Hard work ultimately paid off, earning him loyal customers and more orders.

Previously working alone, Diyaa grew to become a small entrepreneur, employing four Moroccans in his workshop.

The Syrian refugee has nothing but respect for Moroccans, of whom he spoke fondly.

“Moroccans have always inspired confidence in me. As an employer, I feel reassured working hand in hand with them.”

Perseverance breeds success. In January, 2016 Diyaa was awarded a prize by the Moroccan Association for the Support and Promotion of Small Enterprises, known as AMAPPE for short, in January 2016.

As a man fleeing with his family from the horrors of war, receiving awards was the last thing the Syrian refugee had expected.

“I came to Morocco with empty pockets. I had to start, not from zero, but from minus one hundred”, he said.

Despite leading a fairly good life in Morocco, Syria is always in Diyaa’s mind. Going back home remains a heart-felt dream. “There is no place like home,” said the refugee with a sigh.

Still, Diyaa maintains he no longer feels like a stranger in Morocco.

“I am happy among Moroccans,” he said.

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