For Refat Faltus, two things matter as he sets out to his grocery store every morning: serving his neighbors and the families around his shop, and working with a smile. A quiet, dignified man from Suhag in Upper Egypt, his growing business nestled in a family-centric neighborhood in Egypt belies the far-flung journeys of the man behind the humble grocery store and generous smiles.
The aftermath of the January 25th Revolution in Egypt left many in economic uncertainty. Mr. Faltus likewise found himself looking for opportunities outside of the country he knew and loved, and under the advice of a friend, decided to migrate to Italy in search of work. Promised a job contract on a farm, Mr. Faltus entered Italy with high hopes of a steady wage, certain future, and the ability to support his family back home. But all too soon he was informed that the contract was temporary, and purely for the purposes of obtaining a legal entry and residency permit. Disappointed and anxious about his financial stability in Italy, Mr. Faltus moved to the Netherlands, where he worked tirelessly for restaurants, cafes, and farms whenever and wherever he could.
Despite his exhaustive efforts, the living costs in Europe often exceeded his income, and the instability of his work environment meant he was unable to provide for his family in Egypt. With an expired residency permit and no substantial means of supporting himself and his family, Mr. Faltus decided to return home. Referred by friends to IOM, he was approved for a 1500EUR grant for an income-generating activity in Egypt. Mr. Faltus returned home and decided to open a grocery store, seeing a need in his neighborhood. Shortly after opening the shop, he decided to expand his operations into stationary and printing. Today Mr. Faltus provides this service to schools, teachers, and students in the neighborhood, as well as the rest of the neighborhood with the other food and goods in his store. Two years on, Mr. Faltus told IOM: "Without IOM’s support, I couldn’t have made it. Now I have two employees, and in three years we are planning to expand our business by renting a second shop and buying three more photocopy machines to increase our profit.”
With a smile on his and his employees’ faces he humbly, and happily, services his community, his family, and his friends, with a grocery store, two employees, and a photocopy machine.