Lujain was only 16 years old when she fled Syria with her family and settled in Egypt. Being the eldest among four sisters, and with a father who suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes, Lujain had to work to generate income for her family. Yet the amount of money she earned barely covered her family’s increasing expenses.
“I used to earn EGP 800 every month, which was equivalent to USD 100 at that time. This was definitely not enough. Therefore, I was determined to develop myself and my skills in order to be able to find a better job and secure a better income.”
When Lujain turned 18 years old she was torn between her work and her studies at Cairo University. She worked as an assistant nurse, a translator and as a secretary at a small advertising house and that’s where she found her passion for photography and design. She realized that this was a career path that she wanted to pursue and started to look for opportunities to help her reach her goal.
At that point, Lujain learned about Save the Children’s FORSA project. FORSA, now in its sixth year, works with refugee and migrant communities from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and Syria. The project, which is funded by BPRM, targets refugees, migrants and vulnerable Egyptian host communities living in the Ard El Lewa, Faysal and Barageel districts of Giza, as well the district of Maadi in Cairo. The project supports children and their families through provision of child protection services, including mental health and psychosocial support. FORSA delivers technical assistance and training to educators in community-based learning centres, and assists refugee and migrant children access appropriate educational pathways. Lujain was especially eager to participate in the entrepreneurship component of FORSA’s livelihoods program, which works with adolescents and youth to develop their business skills, conduct assessments of their business plans, and provide business development funding and non-financial support. Lujain signed up for the program, and it changed her life.
Save the Children provided Lujain with seed funding to buy a camera; she was also assigned a mentor to guide her to develop her technical and business skills. According to Lujain, “…one of the best moments in my life was when I bought the camera. The moment I held the camera in my hands was irreplaceable. I felt that I owned the world.”
Today, Lujain is working as a freelance photographer and is developing her graphic design skills. She has conducted more than 10 photo sessions and recently participated in a photography competition through the Egyptian Ministry of Culture. She has also volunteered as a photographer with Terre des hommes in three events covering youth conferences. She is now the art director of a marketing campaign for a soon to be launched restaurant. With the support of Save the Children’s FORSA project, Lujain has moved from struggling to support her family to being a young woman on the rise. “Everyone has to work hard to reach her dream. No one should ever give up. I will exert all the effort I can to fulfill my dream of owning an advertising agency one day.”