In the small Chechen village of Shaami-Yurt, 45 km from Grozny, more than 75 percent of the 3,500 residents are unemployed. There is no local factory or any other enterprise that can create jobs or stimulate the economy. Most residents live off subsistence farming, unemployment aid and other government benefits. Some residents must travel to Grozny to work on construction sites, but these jobs typically are temporary.
International Medical Corps set up a new business in February 2010 to help stimulate the local economy. With support from the European Commission (ECHO), an aluminum window frame production workshop was opened to be run by four families in need.
One 57-year-old resident, Abdul-Khamid, was put in charge of the project. The eldest in a family of six, Abdul-Khamid was born in Kazakhstan during the deportation of the Chechen people. His parents died when he was young resulting in emotional and financial hardship for his large family. “Much grief fell to my lot”, Abdul-Khamid says, “Vainakh people say – your riches and wealth is your people. We survived lean years because we had each other.”
The family eventually returned to their parents’ village in Chechnya and started their lives there. But when the war in Chechnya began, Abdul-Khamid and his family found themselves in a spontaneous settlement in Ingushetia. Two of his brothers went missing and other family members were displaced across the country. After two years in the refugee camps, Abdul-Khamid and his remaining family, including nine nephews and nieces, returned to life in Chechnya. The family’s income came from temporary earnings at construction sites and unemployment benefits but was often insufficient.
“It’s difficult to support a large family, especially at my age. Several times I went to the local administrators asking for help, but all my requests were left to gather dust on the officers’ desks”.
In order to assist Abdul-Khamid’s family, as well as three other local families, International Medical Corps established the production workshop, which Abdul-Khamid now runs. International Medical Corps purchased a variety of materials and equipment to assist in launching the business, including a milling machine, puncher, drilling machine, cutter, aluminum impost, aluminum frame and aluminum leaf.
“We named the business ‘Vitrazh’ (Stained-Glass Window),” says Abdul-Khamid. “Several months ago I couldn’t believe anything like this would ever happen.”
Vitrazh is already a success and receives at least four new orders per week. Since construction is currently the largest industry in Chechnya, the business has plans to grow as they develop their full capacity.
Abdul-Khamid’s partner, 28-year-old Khusein, trained in welding for two years, but previously could not find a job. “Our parents saved money to pay for our education but we could not realize their hopes, because we couldn’t find jobs not only in our profession, but even temporary ones. This is my first professional job.”
Abdul-Khamid smiles. “I am getting old, and this project will make me feel younger, not old and abandoned. They say, beauty can save the world, and I say that good will save the world”.