Lucy Akai, a Kenya woman, holds her baby and smiles at the camera. She is wearing brightly coloured beaded jewelery.
© UNHCR/Samuel Otieno

Refugee Livelihoods

Donate now to help displaced people learn new skills, find jobs or start small businesses so they can support themselves.

Refugees not only leave their homes behind when they flee – they also leave behind their careers and businesses.

UNHCR helps displaced people find work or start their own businesses, helping refugees earn much-needed income while also instilling greater dignity and confidence.

In Jordan, Zuzan’s decision to work as a shoemaker and upholsterer – traditionally male-dominated fields – raised eyebrows, but it also provided vital income for her family.

After fleeing Syria in 2012 with her husband and children, Zuzan struggled to provide for her family. When her husband fell ill, Zuzan began helping him with his shoemaking business. She learned to make women’s shoes and, with the extra income, expanded the business to begin re-upholstering old furniture.

With your support, UNHCR can help more refugees like Zuzan earn independent incomes.

UNHCR advocates for refugees’ right to work, provides vocational training opportunities, and helps refugees find work or start small businesses. With a reliable source of income, refugees have greater dignity and self-esteem, and can rebuild their lives.

Kyaka II Vocational Training Centre, Uganda

The Vocational Training Centre (VTC) in western Uganda is the first of its kind to provide vocational training to both refugees and local Ugandan youth.

Kyaka II refugee settlement is home to more than 106,000 refugees from surrounding countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Rwanda. Over half are aged under 30. After they complete primary and secondary school, young people have little chance to receive further education, which is why the VTC is so important.

Opening in 2019, it offers accreditation in agriculture, mechanics, hairdressing, catering and hospitality, providing a pathway to employment. The facility also has dormitories to accommodate students, who often travel long distances to study.

After completing their training, graduates receive a start-up kit to help them set up their own business.

Akankunda is one of the graduates who has used her training to develop her agriculture skills.

“Farming is everything to me, it means a life to me,” she said. “There is nothing better than growing your own food with your own hands.”

“Many ladies have benefited from these pads. I utilise them to make money to support my family.”

Gloria, a Congolese refugee in Uganda, makes handicrafts, including reusable sanitary pads for women, to support herself and her family.

Gloria, a Congolese refugee in Uganda, shows off her brightly coloured handicrafts
© Australia for UNHCR

Gloria’s Story

When Gloria arrived in Uganda from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she had two children and no way to earn an income.

“I had nothing,” she says. “No clothing. Nothing here. But I had the skills in my head.”

When Gloria couldn’t find a job, she moved to the city to seek new opportunities. She discovered the Kampala Refugee Women’s Craft Group, which enables refugee women to provide for their families using their craft skills.

Gloria began earning a regular income making keyrings, baskets, clothing and decorations.

The work helped her afford a modest, two-room house with electricity. She then saved enough money to buy a sewing machine and now runs her own business making and selling reusable sanitary pads for girls at her local church.

“Now I am happy,” says Gloria. “I can meet my house rent. I can pay for water, electricity and university fees for my son.”

Our fundraising impact

The majority of funds raised by Aotearoa New Zealand for UNHCR are directed to UNHCR’s emergency operations, providing the ready funds and resources to respond quickly and effectively in situations of crisis and disaster.

Humanitarian programs