By Morgan Mattson 

Nobody chooses or wants to become a refugee. Refugees are people, who were forced from their homes, careers, friends, and communities to start a new life outside of their normal comfort zones. They are people who had successful careers and might have owned businesses in their home countries. Businesses that were soon dismantled or abandoned. A fraction of a percent of people who have become refugees will ever get the second chance to open a business again. If you know anyone who owns a business, then you know how hard it can be to keep your doors open, and not to mention the global pandemic we just lived through that shut the doors of many local businesses we know and love. Can you imagine opening a business in a foreign country and the challenges one might face? Many people who are forced to resettle open businesses to share their stories, to support themselves and their families, or to earn money to send back home to loved ones.  

Refugee men, women, and children may spend most of their lives in a refugee camp, and less than 1% of people living in a refugee camp get a chance to resettle in another country. Many people never get to leave the camps, and the camp turns into their new community where some get the chance to open businesses. I have heard a few stories of people who opened a business in a refugee camp! One was a story of an entrepreneur from Syria opening a pizza delivery service in the Za’atari refugee camp to make pizzas and deliver them throughout the camp. He would deliver pizza to humanitarian workers amongst others living there. He even got an order to make 500 pizzas for a wedding! Another story I can remember hearing is of a grandmother from Ramadi who opened a shop in a camp in Baghdad to provide for her family after her husband died. She would sell snacks and biscuits to others in the camp so she could support her 9 family members. I remember another story of a woman who opened a dress shop and made dresses for the women in the camp she was living in. She would design wedding dresses for women getting married in the camp and would give them a sense of normalcy. These are a few of many stories of entrepreneurs living in refugee camps!  

When a family finds themselves able to resettle and gets to the United States, they get put on the path of becoming self-sufficient and are offered support to learn or work on their English language skills and find employment. Some people are eventually able to open their own businesses in their new community.

For all your Afghan, middle eastern, Indian, and Pakistani grocery needs, visit Shahen Supermarket in Omaha! You will find authentic ingredients and dishes for your next middle eastern feast! You can also find ingredients and middle eastern classic cuisine in Lincoln at Amin’s Kitchen and Grocery Store. If you’re looking for a new apartment, you might call Gurung Brothers Real Estate! Check out our full list of refugee-owned businesses in the link below. Please support not only local, but refugee owned businesses in your community.  

If you don’t see the business you know and love, please share it on our social media pages and tag it with #welcomerefugeesNE and we will add it to our list. Let’s support and welcome our neighbors to our communities! Don’t forget to create a Welcome Refugees sign and post it to your social media page. Perhaps you want to take a picture of your sign with one of the refugee-owned businesses in your community!

DON’T FORGET!

Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska has partnered with Thrivent to run a “welcome sign campaign” throughout the entire week! Simply write “welcome refugees” on a piece of paper, poster, etc. and take a picture of the sign showing your support for the Nebraska refugee community. The picture can be a selfie holding the sign, the sign in your window, next to your pet… anywhere! Post your picture to Facebook with the hashtag #welcomerefugeesNE or to THIS page and Thrivent will donate $5 back to LFS for refugee resettlement! You can take up to 5 pictures with your sign and Thrivent will donate $5 back for every picture. That’s $25 per person!! Let us work together to show our support and welcome for the refugee community of Nebraska!

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