In Photos and Words: Refugee Food Entrepreneurs in Turkey

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

There are currently about 26 million refugees globally, the highest number on record.

Turkey hosts more refugees than any country in the world, including 3.6 million Syrian refugees. Like refugees in other countries, Syrians in Turkey must find work in order to support themselves and their families in a new country. Because entering the formal labor market is difficult, entrepreneurship gives refugees a potential way to a sustainable livelihood.

To support refugees in building their own businesses in Turkey, the Livelihoods Innovation through Food Entrepreneurship (LIFE) Project has established two food incubators in the cities of Istanbul and Mersin. Refugees participate in a four-month entrepreneurship incubation program and receive business support services. Over two years, the project has graduated  more than 250 entrepreneurs.

WDI is a member of the LIFE Project Consortium, which is led by the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) and funded by the U.S. State Department Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). WDI’s Entrepreneurship Development Center leads the design and development of the curriculum for the entrepreneurship incubation program and supports in-country staff with building their instructional skills. In addition to CIPE and WDI, Consortium members include Union Kitchen and The Stimson Center, all based in the United States, and IDEMA, the project’s implementing partner based in Turkey.

In July, WDI’s Amy Gillett, vice president of Education, and Kristin Babbie Kelterborn, senior project manager, along with Eric Fretz, a WDI faculty affiliate and professor at the University of Michigan, traveled to Istanbul and Mersin to lead workshops on entrepreneurship curriculum development, participate in a business pitch competition for Mersin’s second cohort of entrepreneurs and interview program graduates.

Using some of the photos the pair took, Gillett talks about the trip to Turkey, the work they did and the entrepreneurs they met.


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