How one small loan brought a refugee family back together

01 February 2012

1 February 2012
Saida, Lebanon

“Eight years ago, I was one of UNRWA’s ‘special hardship cases’,” says 49-year-old Ezzeddine Abdel Aziz el Saleh. “I was living in very difficult conditions, making about 20,000 Lebanese pounds [USD 13] per day from my job as a sanitation worker.” Unable to afford housing for his family, Ezzeddine sent his seven children to live with their grandparents.

While living in Saida area, Ezzeddine was told about UNRWA’s microcredit community support programme (MCSP) by an officer from the Saida relief department. Microcredit is a successful employment strategy that fosters entrepreneurship by providing small loans to people who would not otherwise qualify for credit from traditional lenders.

At the encouragement of his children, Ezzeddine applied for a loan to kickstart his small business – collecting and transporting materials to a recycling plant. Within a week of his application, UNRWA assessed his plan and granted him a loan of USD 5000 to purchase a pickup truck. “We accepted his request because he was ambitious, wanted to escape poverty, and – above all – he wanted to improve his life,” explains UNRWA’s Mousa Nimer.

Recycling cardboard for a renewed career

With the help of the pickup truck, Ezzeddine collected discarded cardboard boxes and transported them to a recycling plant in Beirut, 40 minutes away. The money he earned went back into his business, repaid his loan, and helped him start a new life.

After being removed from UNRWA’s roll of “special hardship cases”, Ezzeddine was granted two more loans in 2008 and 2011 based on his track record. He bought a second pickup truck for his sons, who now join him in collecting and unloading several thousand kilograms of cardboard on each trip.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Ezzeddine is still planning for the future. He plans to buy land and machinery to compress the cardboard before it is transported, allowing him to transport more materials and increase his revenue.

“I have an apartment, a car, and I can afford USD 1100 in monthly expenses,” Ezzeddine says proudly. But the greatest reward of his newfound financial stability was bringing his family back together under one roof. What started as one small loan from UNRWA has changed Ezzeddine’s life and the lives of his entire family.

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