Issam’s cafe is brewing success
Rebuilding the local market in Heet has helped young Iraqis like Issam establish their business.
Meet Issam Thamer, 27, from Al-Mohamadi, who runs a cafe at the local municipality-owned market. The only cafe of its kind that is currently operational in the market. Al Mohamadi is a quaint little town based in the Heet district of Anbar.
Before ISIL’s occupation, the bustling market housed similar cafes, known for their delicious Arabic coffee and Iraqi chai, attracting a loyal customer base every evening.
However, in 2016, the entire market was left in ruins by ISIL. “The fighting and instability forced us to leave behind our ancestral home and flee for our safety,” Issam remembers. He fled to Baghdad with his mother and two younger siblings.
“We had no source of income or even any valuables during this period. There were times when we did not have enough money to cover our food and living expenses,” Issam says. While in Baghdad, he had to work multiple daily wage jobs to make ends meet. “There was so much uncertainty that all I wanted was a stable source of income to support my family.”
If you asked Issam four years ago if he would ever be able to find a job or start a business, he would have brushed it off as a distant dream. “We were constantly anxious with all the uncertainty around us.”
However, Issam was able to overcome these challenges. Last year, he returned to Al-Mohamad with the aim of rebuilding and securing a more stable life for his family. “I faced the challenges and uncertainty head-on and never gave up.” He rented a space at the newly rehabilitated municipality market and set up a café and space for residents to play board games. Today, he has been successfully able to set up a loyal customer base.
The market was rehabilitated through UNDP’s flagship programme, the Funding Facility for Stabilization, with generous support from USAID. This not just helped Issam rebuild his life but also revived his community, as the cafe helped bring life back to the once-bustling market.
“I earn about IQD 600,000, which is approximately US$ 400 every month. I am proud to be able to support my mother and siblings with these earnings.” Today, life is different for Issam. “I can dream of my future. The different possibilities feel limitless,” he says with a smile.
About the programme:
The project was implemented through UNDP’s flagship programme, the Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS), with generous support from USAID.
Since 2015, FFS has worked with the Government of Iraq and local actors to ensure safe, dignified, and voluntary returns and to lay the foundation for the successful reintegration of displaced populations into the community. Read more here.