The income generation and livelihood program from OfERR is an effort aimed at building capacity, making refugees self-sufficient and providing support through government institutions to receive certifications that improve their business prospects. The program was born out of the desire to put a stop to migrant smuggling – a grave risk that many construction and daily wage workers from the refugee community faced when they first arrived in India. OfERR staff have helped train refugees and enabled them to set up small businesses such as poultry farms, agriculture, garment manufacturing, petty shops, canteens, fisheries, dairy farms, bakeries, mobile recharging and repair shops. OfERR also works with government organizations to provide certifications that not only give refugees crucial skills but also make it possible for them to receive bank loans with ease.
OfERR staff received training from the Karl Kübel Institute for Development Education in 2006, in addition to training from university centers across Tamil Nadu and has since trained over a thousand refugees on marketing their professional skills. Beneficiaries of this program now work as beauticians, bakers, ornament designers, candle makers, wedding photographers and business owners such as those who rent out furniture for large events or those who purchase wholesale goods and retail them. OfERR also organizes regular exhibitions where refugee professionals can exhibit their products for sale and make an income. Additionally, OfERR arranges for exposure visits for refugees where they are given training and information on successful business practices from various professional organizations.OfERR also focuses these efforts on women refugees through self-help groups. One of our greatest success stories in this context is the tailoring unit run by refugees in the Bhawanisagar Camp in Erode District, one of the largest camps in Tamil Nadu.
Members of the Eniyanila self-help group applied for and successfully received a loan of INR 1 lakh from Cooperative Bank with the support of Selvaraj, an entrepreneur and the husband of a member. With the help of another NGO, the group purchased three sewing machines and employed three refugee women. Today, the thriving business employs eight women who receive large orders from schools and other institutions in Tamil Nadu. These women, in addition to becoming independent, have also inspired other refugees to participate actively in self-help groups and become financially secure, aiding their smooth repatriation to Sri Lanka.