Picking up the pieces: the story of Kabra, an Ivorian Refugee in Ghana

New Story: Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

© UNHCR-GH / P.Folley

EGYEIKROM, Ghana, July 23 (UNHCR) – Before the conflict began in Cote d’Ivoire, Madam Kabra as she is popularly known run a restaurant in Ivory Coast. She had a very successful business, a loving family and good accommodation. Patronage for her restaurant was growing and she had just saved up enough money to buy equipment and cooking sets for a new kitchen. Everything seemed perfect, until the crisis occurred.

“It was a very difficult decision to leave my country. My restaurant business, proceeds of which paid the fees of my children was growing and my plan to expand the business was on course” Kabra indicated.

In its early stages, fighting between factions was concentrated in one area so she initially moved with her children to another district which had not been infiltrated by rebels.  The situation escalated, and she was forced to flee with her husband and two of her five children. “The safety of my family was very important to me and we just had to leave everything behind and flee for our lives. I had to leave my home, business, everything, not knowing what conditions awaits us as we left our country” Kabra lamented. Her three other children also fled the conflict with two going to Morocco and one remaining in Cote d’Ivoire. Kabra and the rest of her family sought refuge in neighboring Ghana hoping things would calm down in their country.

Madam Kabra’s story is one common to most refugee families, but her will to survive led her to make certain decisions that have proved beneficial to herself and her family. She has been able to fulfill her dreams, albeit in another country and looks back to her past as an experience that has shaped her present success.

When they first arrived in Ghana they rented an apartment in Half Assini in the Western Region of Ghana with the little money they had saved. They assumed the violence was only going to last for a short period so they could return home once again, but this did not happen. After several weeks, the situation at home had worsened and they were compelled to register with the UNHCR at Elubo and moved to the refugee camp in Egyeikrom.

Madam Kabra had very little money but a lot of determination. With her expertise in catering, she was able to start a business to sustain her family and herself. She invested in cooking utensils and materials from the local market and started selling fish with ‘attieke’. She moved on to sell ‘prakele’ (a local Ivorian food) in the camp and the local host community. She survived on this business with her family until she decided to enroll on the Skills Training programme for refugees in the camp offered by UNHCR Implementing Partner, the Assemblies of God Relief and Development Services (AGREDS).

During their meeting and assessment sessions, Madam Kabra learnt that AGREDS were looking to recruit trainees to help in the programme. She knew she was qualified and made her move. She went through an interview stage, started the pilot programme, got enrolled and got trained on the AGREDS business training. She was subsequently given the opportunity to be a trainer – Master trade person (MTP).

Madam Kabra’s resilience did not end with this appointment. Once she got selected to be a trainer for the catering class, she started to save up capital to set up and run her own business, a dream that was once destroyed. “I knew if I put in the effort, then all my dreams washed away by war in my country could become a reality. I decided to work harder to achieve this” said Kabra. Today, her sacrifices, determination and resilience have paid off and she is on the path to achieving her dreams. Madam Kabra has been able to raise enough money for the construction of her bakery. The same facility serves presently as the instruction center for the bakery class of which she is in charge.  She has successfully expanded her bakery business to include baking of cakes, chips, baguette and other pastries for sale to the refugees and local people. She also employs and pays for the services of some of the students from her bakery class. She has a lot of customers from the host community who buy her pastries in large quantities for retail in the local community. She plans to buy a larger oven shortly and increase production to match the demand from the host community and the other refugee camps.