Our accomplishments to date:
Since its establishment in August 2021, ECCT has provided professional business coaching as well as business loan total $47,000 USD to four Uyghur enterprises in the first round of the microenterprise program. This helped three existing businesses in purchasing necessary equipment, allowing them to maintain operating rather than being forced to close. The fourth business is a new sewing business in Istanbul that employed 10 Uyghur women refugees.
ECCT supported five Uyghur students through its Student Relief Grant and Training Grant to continue their education and training toward employment in order to address the community's youth unemployment problem. Furthermore, from June 2022, ECCT has provided Childcare Support Grants to 36 children, allowing their mothers to work to support themselves through difficult economic circumstances.
Our present work focuses on Uyghurs living in Turkey.
With the support of Summer Grants from the Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy and Serve in Place Fund from Cornell University, in August 2021, Rizwangul conducted a ground-level community needs assessment in Istanbul, Turkey.
The assessment revealed that Uyghurs, particularly youth and women, face many obstacles to overcome in their efforts to find viable livelihoods. They lack access to labour market and collateral bank loans. Business and financial training is often beyond their reach. Access to Turkish language and computer literacy courses, job readiness training, and childcare assistance, are also significant barriers to employment. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated an already dire situation.
Our work addresses the difficulties head-on through five projects: Microenterprise Program, Training Grants, Childcare Support Grants, and Student Relief Grants, and One Student One Laptop.
The most popular way for Uyghurs living in Turkey to gain income is to run a small business. There are Uyghur street vendors, sewing and alteration services, bakers, and other small businesses owned by Uyghurs. Many of these business owners, however, have been unable to expand or maintain their operations, and some have even been forced to close their doors, particularly since the pandemic.
Combining business loans with business coaching and mentorship, this program will assist Uyghurs, both aspiring entrepreneurs and current business owners, to start or expand their small businesses, allowing them to earn a living through self-employment while also supporting the broader Uyghur community by creating new job opportunities.
For the first round of this program, we have chosen four Uyghur businesses in Turkey that will require $47,000 USD. These four businesses will create ten new jobs and assist in the retention of eight current employees.
Four small businesses we support currently
Ilshad was so excited when he received the business plan that he texted his business coach and said, "Thank you so much for the great help! I read the business plan again and again, and I am extremely grateful; thank you!!!"
Over two months of regular business coaching, Ilshad learned a lot about his livestock farming business and how to operate it more efficiently. He discussed the challenges he is experiencing in his business with his business coach, and finally crafted an actionable business plan.
Now, with a USD 20,000 business loan, he hopes to start a new phase in his business. This investment will assist him in expanding and establishing a sheep and rabbit farm to supply his community with fresh meats. He has a heart for helping others and plans to use the profits to not only fulfill his dream of one day owning his own home but also to increase the financial assistance he currently provides to youth and students in his area whose parents are unable to provide financial support from their home in China.
Textiles and clothing manufacturing is a major industry in Turkey. Muratjan will receive a loan of USD15,000 to establish a new clothing manufacturing business that will employ ten qualified and highly skilled Uyghur women seamstresses to produce garments.
These Uyghur women, many of whom are without husbands or other family support networks, have suffered significant financial and emotional hardship.
Muratjan is passionate about providing the Uyghur community with employment, training, and finance. He has supported these women through their training and now starting a business to help them use their skills and support their families.
The loan will provide the startup capital the business needs to employ the ten seamstresses and provide time to establish profitable cash flow from efficient and quality production.
Video and Film Production
Based in Istanbul, an existing video and film production business wants to expand from a team of 5 to become one of the top filming companies in Turkey – which would involve growth to around 40 staff. The existing business is based mainly on filming weddings and commercials for businesses and the plan is to add the production of TV programs and movies. To move to the next stage, the business needs to purchase a camera, lenses, and lighting, and lease an appropriate office. They need USD7,000 to do this.
"I thank my business coach for making each learning session enjoyable," said Halid, the business owner, "I learned the importance of developing a sound business plan. I was not able to envision my business expanding because we're struggling and making little progress. Now we have a business plan and a financial forecast. And I am excited to have a business loan from Empower Communities Charitable Trust to buy the equipment we need the most. This gives me the confidence that I will be able to grow my business in the coming years. I can now see hope for my dream to become one of Turkey's top ten filming companies.”
Abire is a remarkable woman. After losing touch with her husband five years ago when she was three months pregnant, she soon after had to flee a hostile environment in a neighboring country with two young children and a newborn. Now living in Turkey, she has not allowed those circumstances to stop her hope for a better future, both for herself, her family, and in particular, Uyghur women living in Turkey who find themselves in similar circumstances.
As a trained beauty therapist, Abire wants to use her skills to help other Uyghur women feel happy again and valued as a person.
A USD 5,000 loan will provide her with the equipment she needs to continue growing her small business until she has sufficient customers to open a store where she can employ other women and expand her services to include retailing skincare products and training other beauty therapy students.
Youth unemployment is far too complex a problem to be addressed. Yet, we found a good starting point with Uyghur youth living in Turkey.
Many Uyghur youth want to learn skills that will help them find work. Sulaiman, for example, would like to enroll in a six-month computer training course offered by the Hira Foundation for 6,000 Turkish Lira. Aygul wishes to attend a baking course, which will cost 3500 Turkish Lira. However, they are unable to afford the course fee.
At Empower Communities, we will provide grants for their training fees. So the youth can attend training courses such as IT skills, baking, sewing, mechanics, and driving.
To begin with, 23 students will be supported in the first round of grants starting from April 2022.
Childcare Support Grant
Many Uyghur women are the sole breadwinners in their families. Since 2017, their husbands have been unable to return to Turkey from China. They are essentially on their own because they do not have any other family members to rely on.
Some want to start a small business or find a job to support themselves and their children. It is difficult for them to pay for childcare while starting a business or settling into a new job.
For the first six months of their new business and employment, our Childcare Support Grants will cover the childcare payments for them.
Uyghur mothers who are studying will also be eligible for such assistance.
The payment is made directly to the childcare providers. Currently, childcare costs 500 Turkish Lira per month per child. To begin with, 27 women will be supported in the first round of grants starting from April 2022.