Refugee Employment Through Remote Work: How Na’amal is Creating Change

By Lorraine Charles, Executive Director/ Co-Founder, Na'amal

Na’amal offers refugees and underrepresented communities access to remote work and soft skills training. Their Work Readiness Programme develops non-technical skills like collaboration, innovation, and time management. Since 2020, Na’amal has collaborated with partners for digital training, including MIT ReACT and Techfugees. It’s now starting a refugee training program in Ethiopia. Their Voices of Resilience podcast shares refugee stories to shift societal narratives.

There are approximately 29 million displaced people who are categorized as “refugees” worldwide. Within this group, self-sufficiency proves to be difficult with many individuals being subjected to informal work in precarious conditions and in indignity to be able to afford their basic needs. The premise for such treatment, in most cases, continues to solely be the separation caused by capable individuals being labeled with the political title of a “refugee.”

In response, Lorraine Charles, an academic and social entrepreneur whose expertise lies in – amongst other things – refugee issues in the Middle East, envisioned a future whereby remote work could be one viable solution to the aforementioned challenges refugees face when trying to earn a living.

Lorraine co-founded Na’amal (which means ‘we work’ in Arabic) in 2019 as an organization that provides employers access to refugee talent. Na’amal trains refugees and other underrepresented communities to prepare them to be successful in finding – and then thriving in – remote roles.

Na’amal’s Work Readiness Programme is focused on the development of non-technical or soft skills in areas like innovation, entrepreneurial thinking, collaboration, communication, goal-setting, motivation, and time management. These skills are nurtured through each element of the online learning course, mentoring, and skills workshops.

Since June 2020, Na’amal has collaborated with partners who train program participants in advanced digital skills. To date, their training partners include MIT ReACT with global cohorts in 2021 and 2022; in Lebanon in 2022, Na’amal has worked with Techfugees; and in Jordan, Chams in 2020 and 2021. Currently, it is gearing up to begin a year-long refugee training program in Ethiopia in collaboration with Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT).

In addition to the more direct work of connecting refugees to remote employment opportunities, Na’amal is also an advocate for change at a socio-economic structural level with regard to the narratives surrounding refugees. This is motivated by the belief that lasting and numerically-significant refugee empowerment begins with how the entire society views and interacts with refugees.

A beginning to the shifting of this narrative is a collective and active acknowledgment and practice of the fact that refugees are quite simply regular people who needed to leave their country for safety reasons, and this is the root of what sets them apart. There does not exist any inherent inferiority in their potential and capabilities because of their title. In an effort to effectively communicate this message, Na’amal has launched a podcast series titled, Voices of Resilience. The podcast features six inspiring individuals who share their stories on forced displacement in their own words. Given that education and employment are often pivotal parts of the road to a financially stable, dignified life, this podcast shares insights on their journeys, with a focus on their education paths and livelihoods.

Na’amal is excited and ready to continue bringing refugees and other vulnerable populations into the thriving ecosystem that is the global remote workforce. Learn more about their recent endeavors in their most recent newsletter .

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