Childcare Program Offers Refugee Entrepreneurs Opportunity for Success

February 28, 2013

EMM’s partners at the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia Refugee Resettlement Office are working through the initial stages of an exciting new program as the agency’s microenterprise initiative expands its reach.

The agency’s Refugee Childcare Microenterprise Program facilitated the creation of 36 new home-based childcare businesses in its first year in 2012. The program provides trainings and loans to help refugees and asylees start home-based childcare businesses, providing opportunities for new Americans to earn income, and generate leadership and entrepreneurial capacity within their communities.

Each program participant completes 20 hours of training through the Washington State Training and Registration System to learn about running a child care business. Each participant must also pass HIV, first aid and CPR courses, and take a financial literacy class. Funds from loans can be used to purchase inventory, equipment, toys or other needs, and to cover operational costs.

Last year, the program helped employ more than 50 refugees through the expansion of businesses and placements in existing positions. It also provided needed affordable childcare services in refugee communities, allowing customers greater freedom to work.

Childcare skills trainer Hafifa Abdi has played a big role in this success. Abdi first arrived in the U.S. as a refugee from Somalia more than 20 years ago, and she provides a perspective to childcare development that refugee entrepreneurs can understand.

Working with students from Iraq, Burma, Sudan, Somalia and other countries, Abdi has been able to provide education in a way that spoke to their shared experiences as refugees and asylees.

With over 15 years of experience as a home childcare provider, Abdi has helped paved the way for newer refugees who might be unfamiliar with, or daunted by, the task of opening a business. To ease this apprehension, she’s done everything from translate fliers and business cards for clients, to helping identify vendors that sell childcare business supplies in the Puget Sound area.

“This childcare business is tough, but they all know how to do it,” she said. “(They) should really have fun with it.”

Diocese of Olympia Refugee Micro-Enterprise Specialist Kevin DeVoss contributed this article.