Syrian intern Imad on a mission to Uganda

Firm supporter of microfinancing

Work! He wants to work. Having successfully completed the European Microfinance Programme in 2017, Imad Alsheikh Haidar was eager to put his many talents to good use. And preferably in the sector that is so close to his heart: microfinancing. Because that is where he was working when he was forced to leave Syria in July 2013. Fleeing from the violence of a war that cost friends and relatives their lives, he ended up in Belgium. And at BRS.


En route to a new life

Imad: “The First Microfinance Institution was the name of the microfinancing institution (MFI) I worked for in Damascus. A totally new experience, not only for me, but also for Syria. The name of the institution says it all. I worked there with great enthusiasm for three and a half years, but the war changed everything. Customers died or suddenly disappeared. I lost friends and relatives. I did not want to live like that anymore.

After a long, difficult journey, I ended up in Ghent. There I immediately started to learn Dutch. I worked in a factory for one and a half years, but soon knew that was not for me. Looking for ways to improve my situation, I discovered the European Microfinance Programme, a master’s programme at the Solvay Brussels School, in which BRS is also closely involved. I enrolled immediately.”

Saving from an early age

Imad: “I did the compulsory internship, which is part of the course, at BRS. And through BRS, I worked in Uganda for three months for the local MFI Hofokam. With a view to the launch of the organisation’s savings products, I surveyed their clients about their needs and expectations.

I am very interested in savings products. Saving is very important, especially in countries where people have few resources. In Syria I was working on savings accounts for children, because I am convinced that it helps if children learn how to save from an early age.”

New friends

Imad: “BRS supported me exceptionally well during my internship, both practically and in terms of the content. And this master’s programme has taught me a great deal. With over 400 customers, I had already built up quite a bit of experience in Syria, but I have now deepened and broadened my knowledge. I have studied multiple aspects of microfinancing and experiences of MFIs around the world. And I have also made many new friends, from Africa and Latin America.”

Give me work work work

Imad: “Now that I have successfully graduated as a master in microfinancing, the next step is to find a job. I want to get started as soon as possible. Preferably in the microfinancing sector, because that is what I am really passionate about. That feeling is stronger than love, it really is. Microfinancing is so very important.

In Syria, this sector is still very much the subject of debate, but my experience tells me that it does bring change for many people. If people living in poverty are given access to financial services, they can save, take out insurance, transform their lives. The main mission of microfinancing is inclusion, ensuring that all people have financial opportunities. And that’s why I’m such a firm supporter of microfinancing: because it gives people real opportunities.”