Carmarthenshire social enterprise helps Syrian refugees gain employment within their new communities
Matt Miller of Amal discusses how they have recently set up to help Syrian refugees find paid employment while also making it easier for local firms to take on, all while under lockdown conditions.
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Where did the social business idea originate?
Syrian refugee families have been resettling in Carmarthenshire since 2016. There are now over 30 families in the County. Generally, they have been settling in well, and have been given a warm welcome by local communities. They have been attending English classes and many have volunteered for local charities and businesses. However, most have had great difficulty getting into paid employment. The new social business, Amal, aims to provide paid work directly, as well as making it easier for other employers to take on Syrians – or members of other refugee communities in the future.
Can you give us a summary of what has been achieved?
The organisation has only just been formed – during lockdown – so it has been a difficult start. The name Amal was chosen by a meeting of the Syrian community in early March, where the first four board members were elected. Two Welsh people have also volunteered to serve on the board. On-line training has been arranged for all board members, timed to take place before on-line board meetings where the first important decisions will be taken.
Did you have to overcome any major obstacles / challenges?
This is a very new idea for the Syrian community, as there is no equivalent tradition in their home country. However, they have realised that it makes sense to put in the effort to make the organisation succeed.
"The new social business, Amal, aims to provide paid work directly, as well as making it easier for other employers to take on Syrians – or members of other refugee communities in the future."
The board will need to decide on which business ideas are able to go ahead under lockdown, and which must wait a little longer. Meanwhile, both board and other members can develop their business ideas and learn the English they will need to put them into practice, with the help of their wonderful ESOL tutors.
Are there any members of staff / community you would like to give special mention to?
Steve Kelshaw has been a rock right from the start of Syrian resettlement. He is now leading on getting the new business going. He did set up a ‘pop-up café’ event which was due to happen in April, and all the tickets were sold. Unfortunately, it had to be cancelled, like so many things.
How has Social Business Wales New Start been supporting you?
Many thanks to Esther Price and Branwen Ellis, who gave initial advice to the Syrian group last year. Tom Addiscott has been brilliant in setting up the organisation formally as a company limited by guarantee. It has been really vital to have someone to guide us through the process, as choosing the wrong legal form could have caused a lot of problems in the future.
If you had one message for the social business sector right now, what would it be?
Support one another.
Amal has received business consultancy support and advice from Social Business Wales New Start, funded by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by the Wales Co-operative Centre.
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