"Nobody wants to go to work abroad"

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

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

Working away from home is hard, and Maria knows this from her own experience. Once she went to work in Poland herself – she was a labouress and a seamstress. Upon return, her sister and she opened their own sewing atelier called Alyonushka. The place for the atelier was chosen successfully: there is a school, a district department of education, and a cafe, so customers are always around. Recently the first bulk order has come – Maria and her sister will sew a whole batch of medical gowns.

Own business means also a flexible work schedule. Maria successfully combines work and maternal responsibilities

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 defence of which took place online. “Online conference is a very convenient format! You don't have to go anywhere. I didn't even have to look for who to leave Sofiyka,” Maria tells of the defence procedure. “The questions did not seem difficult to me, because in three years I am already well-versed in this business."

“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,” says Ali Chabuk, Project Manager at IOM Ukraine. The funding is based on the "1 + 1" principle, i.e. for each dollar of own funds invested in developing their business in Ukraine, participants receive another dollar as a non-refundable grant for the purchase of equipment.

New equipment has arrived: now there are opportunities for business expansion

Maria received from IOM three new sewing machines and a steam generator. "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, wants to go to work abroad. People need jobs and decent working conditions here in Ukraine.”