Opportunities that Could Change Lives: Small Projects in Idlib

The delegate of the “Life Fund” in Ma`arat al-Nu`man – May 2018 (Life Fund Facebook Page)

The delegate of the “Life Fund” in Ma`arat al-Nu`man – May 2018 (Life Fund Facebook Page)

Muhammad al-Qassem received an unexpected visitor at the beginning of the year in Maarshurin, the small village in southern Idlib Governorate where he lives. At the time he did not realise that this would lead to a new beginning for his profession and be the start of new hard-won success.
The visiting delegate from “Life Fund” came with a tempting offer for Muhammad, which was the provision of a loan to begin his own project. What was required of him in return was to become part of a mutual fund group made up of reputable members in order for payments to be guaranteed.
Muhammad had previously sold diesel fuel at a small stall which he operated with two other friends. One of these friends also owned a store selling fruits, and the other ran a falafel restaurant. The three gained access to the loan by guaranteeing each other’s repayments.
Today Muhammad owns a fuel store from which he sees a good return, and he is continuing to grow his business project in cooperation with a charitable association.

Mutual Support Defying the Effects of War

The “Life Fund” association, which was established by the Kuwaiti “Global Mercy” foundation, has provided financial support and loans so far to 1430 people since beginning its operations five years ago in western Aleppo Governorate and the area around Maarat al-Numan town in Idlib.
The field coordinators of “Life Fund” oversee the projects being financed until repayment installments are completed, according to the association’s media spokesman Jamil al-Reyhani.
Funding varies from $800 to $1,500, according to an estimate of the needs of each project. If the person carrying out the project does it well, and repayments are made successfully, the association then moves to the second stage of funding in which the borrower can access up to $2,400.
Until now a total of 201 projects have benefited from the second stage of funding. These projects have included businesses from retail, industrial, and service sectors in more than 45 villages and residential areas. The number of people benefiting indirectly from the support is said to be 7710, according to the association.
Al-Reyhani has stated that the “Life Fund” initiative has been considered a success until now, with beneficiaries being successful at replaying their loans. The one challenge that has obstructed the project, however, has been security conditions in some of the areas of operations, with stability being the most crucial factor affecting the prospects for businesses.
Idlib, as well as the northern and western Hama regions, have witnessed a campaign of wide-scale escalation on the part of the Syrian regime and Russia since late April which has involved a sharp uptick in airstrikes. According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, this campaign witnessed between 26 April and 28 June the killing of 522 civilians, including 129 children and 99 women.
Humanitarian organizations operating in these areas, including the “White Helmets” and “Response Coordinators”, have said that the airstrike campaign has targeted civilian areas, critical infrastructure, and local utilities. The campaign has so far resulted in at least half a million people being displaced.

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