IOM-supported victims of trafficking open a garden centre

Svitlana* is a young woman with witty eyes and decisive gestures. Possessing a great personal integrity no matter the hardships she had to go through in her life, she likes to talk about her business and plans for the future. Svitlana is an economist by education and used to work in retail. Being a single mother, she was looking for better income opportunities and a job abroad. Unfortunately, Svitlana became a victim of human trafficking in Poland: she was forced to work at a garden centre, where her health was badly affected by fertilizers and hard physical labour. But she managed to get herself together, move on and even did not lose her love for gardening.

Svitlana received comprehensive reintegration assistance from IOM Ukraine, which included training on micro-entrepreneurship and a grant to start her own small business, made possible with funding from Canada. Thanks to the IOM programme, Svitlana not only won the grant, but also build up a team to join forces of herself and two young men from the training group around her dream business idea – a gardening center.

“That was my plan from the very beginning – to look for business partners among the training participants, since I was about to start a difficult, labour-intensive business. The guys believed in me, and I am also happy with my choice. From my side, I contributed a comprehensive business plan, start-up guidance and knowledge of gardening. The guys’ role is indispensable in the daily operations and logistics,” says Svitlana.

The new gardening center is located on the outskirts of a Western Ukraine city, where Svitlana and her business partners rent a land plot showcasing hundreds of colourful plant specimen for sale.

The gardening center is a bright story compared to what had happened to me in Poland. But I don’t think about the past any more, and I still love flowers. This business allowed me to revitalize myself, get on my feet and start all over again,” says Svitlana stressing both the therapeutic and economic recovery role her small business plays for her today. “The IOM programme has helped me to become financially sustainable, while doing something I was born to do. Such kind of luck is once in a lifetime.”

From 2000 till now, IOM Ukraine provided comprehensive reintegration assistance to almost 13,000 victims of trafficking, which, depending on the individual needs of each beneficiary, included legal consultation and representation in criminal and civil court; medical care, psychological counselling, shelter, vocational training, small-grant programme supporting those trafficking survivors who aspire to set-up their own business and other forms of assistance. More than 460 former victims of trafficking have benefited from IOM’s Micro-Enterprise Development Programme, setting up 317 micro-enterprises and creating over 400 additional jobs.

*The name has been changed to protect privacy