ames Hachur Galerio is a family man and a jack of all trades. The 41-year old was fortunate to have come across a Skills for Life poster pinned up at a community centre in Kakuma that advertised free skills training opportunities for inhabitants of the refugee camp. He applied and was taken in for computer repair training.
I’ve always been interested in computers. In 2008 while in South Sudan, I bought my first one, and since then, I’ve been curious about learning how they operate. When I saw the poster, I knew the training would offer me a golden opportunity to learn something new.
“The training took three months and would run for three hours each day. It was easy to access the sessions for most of us in the learning group as it took place in a central location, near the market. I particularly enjoyed the practical parts as I love using my hands, and the sessions gave me a chance to open the machines and figure out the problem. My learning group purely consisted of refugees and the trainer taught us in Swahili and English. This did not pose a challenge to us as we had stayed in the camp for a while and had learnt the basics of both languages through our daily interactions with the host community.”
“I was already running a business of charging cell phones before joining the training. You see, here in the camp, many people lack access to stable electricity, and therefore it was a relevant business venture to pursue. People would come in and charge their phones for a small fee. When the three months of technical skills training elapsed, our group of 35 was split into smaller groups. I joined a group with 14 other gentlemen, and we formed our business group. We learnt about accountability for each other within the group and the importance of saving. Since I already had space which I was operating my business from, I invited my group members to co-share the space and I offered to continue paying the rent till business picked up. We worked in shifts and shared the money between ourselves. However, with time, the group of 15 slowly started disbanding. Some members got jobs with other local companies, while others returned to their countries of origin. Before I knew it, I was all alone. I chose to press on and continue with the business, but due to the client inconsistency, I decided to diversify my service offering.”
While in South Sudan, James managed a welding business and took studio pictures. He decided to use those skills to earn a few extra pennies to support his family.
“Initially, with the computer repair business, I would get one client a day on a good day. This was not sustainable and I decided to venture into photocopy and lamination services. I saw an increase in my client base within the next few months of operation.”
He also revived his photography business and constructed a studio at the back of his workshop. He is now able to take pictures, edit and print them for his clients to their specification. Additionally, James saved to buy materials and a welding grinder. He now makes unique chairs, tables, stools, beds and frames for hanging clothes. This has picked up well and given him the diversity he needs as when clients visit his workshop, he is also able to advertise the other services he offers. He recently stocked up his workshop with memory cards which he loads with music, a per his clients’ request, and sells. With his combined efforts, James makes CHF 91 on a bad month and CHF 183 when demand is high. He uses his money to support his family, buy more resources and saves the rest using mobile banking.
“I want to grow my business, improve what I do. I hope I can one day move from this temporary structure and build my permanent shop. I want my shop to make a name for itself. I am going to improve my designs so that people know this is the place to come for good things. I even want to make sure there is WiFi here too.”
James has a large family, and he supports them where he can despite not being able to attend to all their needs completely.
“I have two wives and fifteen children. We get food aid from the World Food Programme and I compliment that by buying meat and vegetables occasionally in addition to second-hand clothes. I work hard so that I’m able to provide as much as I can. I want my children to be exposed to the world - have a steady and successful future. As for myself, I married early and got a family fast. I want to make sure all my sons and daughters are well educated.”
James feels prepared to handle whatever happens in the future.
“Swisscontact trained us on how to run a business, so I want to thank them for that. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Promoting Life Skills and Livelihoods - Skills for Life (S4L)
Skills for Life is currently in its third phase of implementation. It seeks to strengthen the income-generating capabilities of youth from the host and refugee communities in Kakuma by enhancing their technical, financial, life and literacy skills. Skills for Life is financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and implemented by Swisscontact.