A Story of Success in Liberia

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, civil crisis engulfed West Africa and uprooted people which led them to  search for new homes in neighboring countries. Cote d’Ivoire was no exception. In 2002, the violence in the West African nation emanating from political upheaval saw thousands of its citizens running across the border as refugees to neighboring Liberia.   Women, children and the elderly are usually the main victims of such turmoil.

Daha Noel, a 15-year-old boy in 2002, was one of the refugees that managed to find his way to safety in Liberia’s Nimba County. He lost both parents in the civil crisis that forced him to escape. He fled his homeland, accompanied by people he only met on the road to safety, who later became his caregivers. Young Daha had courage and determination to stay safe, and survival was his focus. He found himself in the Saclepea refugee camp where he sold medicine as a peddler for his caregivers.  Daha enrolled in the refugee school in the camp and completed secondary school in 2009 at a private school, the Tozoe Memorial in Saclepea with support of UNHCR Dafi scholarship.

Daha Noel from infancy nurtured a dream of becoming a Medical Doctor. He kept his dream alive and enrolled at the Nimba County Community College (NCCC) in 2012 on the UNHCR Dafi scholarship and obtained an Associate degree in nursing in 2017.

Now with a degree in a discipline of his dream, he was now pondering where to begin on the journey to obtaining his goal, because getting a job as a refugee in a country where over 60% of its citizens are unemployed is far-fetched. Daha, with his basic knowledge in the sale of pharmaceutical drugs was now exploring the possibility of starting something, preferably in an area he already knew.

The path to starting your own business isn’t always easy, but staying flexible and open to new possibilities can lead to great things, especially with hard work. Starting off selling medical drugs as a peddler wasn’t the most glamorous job around, but it was an important eye opener which gave Daha the motivation to write a business plan intended to run and manage his own medicine store. To this end, he obtained his operating license from the Liberia Pharmaceutical Board which permits him to run a medicine store in Liberia.

Livelihood project in Liberia

Livelihood project: In July 2018, Daha Noel became a beneficiary in the Livelihood and Social Economic Empowerment Project which is intended to ensure self-reliance and improved livelihoods for refugees opting for local integration in Liberia. The project is funded by UNHCR and is implemented by the African Initiatives for Relief and Development (AIRD). The project began with a pilot phase that provides cash support to participants through Cash Based Intervention (CBI).

The amount of US$ 600.00 was Daha’s livelihood cash support entitlement, based on his family size of four. The cash is provided in two installments with a decision to provide the second installment on the premise of satisfactory performance in the business. Daha Noel’s innovation and hard work made him succeed and he received the balance of his cash.

Daha’s Weekly Income and Savings: Business location is an advantage in entrepreneurship. Daha was farsighted in choosing the site of the weekly market in Saniquelle for his business. This has also boosted the customer base for the “People’s Medicine Store” which formally started operations in August 2018. The store now has an average weekly income of L$ 25,000 (US$ 156.25) and weekly savings of L$ 5,000.00 (US$ 31.25) which is a significant achievement by Daha Noel as an entrepreneur and a refugee.

Everyone has a past, and not all are good, but whatever you’ve gone through, using your background and experience to inform your business can result in success. In Daha Noel’s case, he used a troubled childhood to motivate and drive him, and his business and family benefit from it today.

Daha’s difficult experience is a reality for many young refugees. But, it’s also a testament to what can happen if you’re persistent and willing to keep trying. Whether you’re seeking a loan to open a business, or you’re simply trying to solve a difficult problem, trying over and over again will yield results, even if it takes a few years. Daha’s story is a clear example of perseverance and getting back up after life knocks you down, and what can be achieved with determination. But, maybe, what is most important here is his commitment to his new community in Saniquelle and how it benefits not only those around him, but strengthens his business too

African Initiatives for Relief and Development (AIRD) has implemented the livelihood and economic empowerment project in Liberia for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) since April 2018.

 

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