Returning home and thriving!
March 21, 2023
With the right support, determination, and hard work, anything is possible.
Lira Cela stood in awe of her bar, a testament to her unwavering perseverance and entrepreneurial spirit. Since returning to her homeland from Greece with her family, she had dedicated herself to making her long-held dream of owning a business a reality. Her bar hummed with life and energy as customers flocked to enjoy its welcoming atmosphere and impeccable service.
Lira was constantly devising new ways to elevate her customers' experiences. As a gifted chef, Lira saw an opportunity to introduce a tantalizing array of home-cooked meals to her menu. After enrolling in a course to hone her culinary skills, she pitched her idea to her husband, who wholeheartedly supported it. All they required was a small kitchen and the necessary equipment to embark on this exciting new venture. Thanks to the invaluable assistance of the project, they were able to modernize their bar with lights and furnishings while also creating a games corner for their customers to enjoy.
In the village of Baltez, Mikel Koci tended to his clients in his barbershop. Barbering was not just a job for Mikel; it was a passion that he had passed down to his two sons, who were both accomplished barbers themselves. Despite the challenges his family had faced in Greece, they persevered and eventually returned home, seeking ways to improve their lives. To take their business to the next level, they required additional equipment and tools.
Thankfully, Lira and Mikel were among the returnees who received support from a project funded by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme. This project was specifically designed to assist and empower migrant entrepreneurs like them who had returned to their homeland.
With new resources and equipment, both Lira and Mikel were able to revolutionize and expand their businesses, offering their clients better services and experiences.
Lira's bar was now renovated and modernized, and her home-cooked meals had become a hit with customers. Mikel's barbershop was now equipped with state-of-the-art tools, attracting clients from all over the city. Their hard work had paid off, and they were proud of how far they had come.
Lira and Mikel's success begins with their participation in a start-up competition organized by the United Nations Development Programme. The competition drew widespread interest from returnees like them, attracting a staggering 155 applications. After a rigorous selection process, 75 applicants were granted the opportunity to receive invaluable support, including personalized employability improvement plans, employment mediation, and livelihood assistance. It was within this nurturing and empowering environment that Lira and Mikel were able to achieve their entrepreneurial dreams.
The project's impact transcends mere financial support, as it also strives to address the gaping voids faced by returnees regarding business support services and access to thriving business networks. Moreover, it champions entrepreneurship among vulnerable returnees, Roma, and Egyptians. Among the 75 selectees, 20 individuals were fortunate enough to receive financial backing of up to 500,000 Albanian Leke for their promising start-ups. This invaluable assistance has empowered them to navigate the challenging waters of entrepreneurship with greater confidence and success.
The Reintegration of Returnees in the Western Balkans project, financed by the European Union, aims to address the primary institutional barriers for the reintegration of vulnerable returnees and the drivers of social and economic exclusion and outmigration in the Western Balkans. By providing support for employment, business development, and social services, the project is helping to create opportunities for returnees and reduce the factors that push people to migrate in the first place. The project has also partnered with the Institute of Romani Culture in Albania.
The seed funding provided by the project is in the form of goods, addressing the challenges experienced by returnees, including a lack of employment prospects, low pay, a sizable informal sector, and poor-quality social services in the area.
Monica Merino, UNDP Resident Representative in Albania, says: "The Reintegration of Returnees in the Western Balkans Project is an excellent example of how development initiatives can address the primary institutional barriers for the reintegration of vulnerable returnees and the drivers of social and economic exclusion and outmigration in the Western Balkans. By providing support for employment, business development, and social services, the project is helping to create opportunities for returnees and reduce the factors that push people to migrate in the first place."