"Nobody Really Wants To Work Abroad"

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"Why should you write about us? What is so special about our family?” Maria is surprised when we ask her if she agrees to an interview. "There are migrant workers almost in every family here."

Maria and Vitalii are a young couple from Volodymyr-Volynskyi, a small town in Western Ukraine. She is a seamstress, he is a builder. A year ago, a baby girl Sofiyka was born. The family wants to spend as much time together as possible, but they rarely can. Vitalii has seasonal work in Estonia, and for many months he communicates with his wife and daughter only via Viber.

Working away from home is hard, as Maria knows from her own experience. She recently returned from Poland and she and her sister have now opened their own sewing workshop which they call Alyonushka. Recently the first bulk order has come – Maria and her sister will sew a whole batch of medical gowns.

Six months ago, through a local NGO, Maria found out about the business development grants that IOM provides to migrant workers and their families. She consulted with her husband, filed an application, and within two weeks received confirmation that she had passed the competition. Then there was the painstaking work of writing a business plan, the defense of which took place online. “Online conference is a very convenient format," she smiles. "You don't have to go anywhere. I didn't even have to look for who to leave Sofiyka with. The questions did not seem difficult to me, because for three years I am already well-versed in this business."

Ali Chabuk, Project Manager at IOM Ukraine explains that the pilot initiative, implemented by IOM with the financial support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), helps migrant workers invest in the creation and development of Ukrainian businesses. "The funding is based on the 1 + 1 principle, i.e. for each dollar of their own funds invested in developing their business in Ukraine, participants receive another dollar as a non-refundable grant for the purchase of equipment."

Maria received funds for three new sewing machines and a steam generator from IOM. "We're going to expand and hire three more workers," she explains. “I worked in a sewing workshop in Poland and I know how to organize everything. I am sure I will be a good employer. Nobody, believe me, really wants to go to work abroad. People need jobs and decent working conditions here in Ukraine.”