Time for humanitarian investments

Time for humanitarian investments

 Economics and ethics are interconnected like front and reverse side of a Polish coin: economics is a front side, because it expresses itself in numbers, ethics is the eagle that gives meaning to these numbers; without this meaning it would only be a token – not a coin. – prof. Wojciech Gasparski

Business and help beyond the borders

In recent years, corporate social responsibility has become an increasingly popular topic. CSR is very often used only to substitute two ideas that some scientists, politicians and business people misunderstand: “ethics” and “morality”. Care for employees, customers and environment should be natural though and their promotion should not be perceived as an act of idealism.

CSR is losing its original meaning nowadays. Only a true systematic ethical reflection on each business choice should be described as a social responsibility of companies. ‘Being ethical’ means being able to go beyond pure selfishness, to build long-lasting projects that would be designed for achieving a common good – both for their builders and all the people around the world. Social responsibility should concern then all the business activities – surely it should not be a simple PR game played by a few specialized employees of the company.

How to run a business and help others wisely? One of the options is to involve your company in building a responsible and sustainable entrepreneurship. Caritas Poland encourages support for microentrepreneurs in the areas of a prolonged conflict. Such a subsidy lets them rebuild their ventures or continue their activities. It might be considered as “humanitarian investments” – ones that are most needed and have long-term positive effects. Return on such “investment” does not take a direct financial form. Nevertheless, it changes numerous lives of war victims and their relatives and – in the long run – makes creation of a better world for all the people possible.

Help needed immediately

A civil war in Syria has been going on for nine years. As a result, many small and medium-sized enterprises have been destroyed. Alarming reports from international organizations say that the unemployment rate reached 55% (compared to 15% before the outbreak of war). Difficulties in getting a job in a country, devastated by a bloody conflict, is a key factor prompting young people to emigrate, the second most important cause after the immediate threat to life. Entrepreneurs, who took a business loan before the war, have to repay the debt to this day, although their dreams have long been ruined. Syrians, who want to rebuild their ruined homeland with their own hands, face international sanctions, a big obstacle in returning to normal everyday life. The sanctions are a part of a complicated geopolitical game. Many put hope in the foreign aid.

Caritas Poland has been helping directly in northern Syria over the last three years. Assuming that the wisest type of aid leads to the beneficiaries becoming independent, Caritas has focused on active support for entrepreneurship development, which is the key to further improving the material situation of Syrians and rebuilding the economy. Caritas Poland has initiated the project “Inwestor od serca”, which enables Polish companies to financially support one of the family enterprises in Aleppo.

The effectiveness of this type of support can be measured by the testimonies of people who benefited from help coming from Poland. Experience to date show that the first year is successfully completed by about 90% of established enterprises, and the difficult war reality is slowly being replaced by stability. There is no doubt that from both the economic and psychological points of view, direct support of creative and willing people: mechanicians, chefs, electricians and others, is the best possible form of support.

A new hope for war victims

One of the three hundred people who found their footing thanks to Polish donors is George, a mechanician. For thirty years, until 2012, the man has been managing a car workshop in the industrial district of Aleppo. Then, within few weeks, the peaceful area became a place of intense fights between government forces and armed opposition. Not only running a workshop, but even getting close to it became impossible. George’s house was separated from his workshop by the front line for good.

– When I decided to suspend my business, I thought it was temporary. Just a few days, maybe a few weeks. I kept telling myself everyday: I’ll be back tomorrow … But tomorrow never came George says.

He remained unemployed for a long time, waiting for the situation to develop. When he eventually lost hope, he found a job in a car workshop near his house.

In recent years the situation in Aleppo stabilized, although one might still hear explosions and shootings. Having overcome his fear, George went to see his former workshop. The district was unrecognizable: most of the buildings in ruins, no running water, no electricity, no life, stolen equipment, busted windows. The scale of destruction exceeded his wildest imaginations.

George dreamt to reopen his company. He cleaned up the premises and – with the financial help from Caritas – he bought a new metal table, tools and car parts. Although work at Aleppo is not easy, power outages slow everything down and many customers are insolvent, George looks to the future with optimism.

There are thousands of similar entrepreneurs in Syria. Thanks to Caritas Poland’s funds, many small companies reopened in Aleppo, among others: tailor shops, grocery stores, small street restaurants, craft workshops, more taxis on to the streets. A local artist opened an atelier at home, and a photographer bought a professional camera to capture joyful moments at Syrian weddings. Some of the businesses are prospering so well that the entrepreneurs decided to employ more people. A domino effect has started.

Humanitarian investments earn interest quickly.


Author:

Caritas Poland

Last Updated on March 10, 2021 by Karolina Ampulska

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