On my drive back home yesterday, I was listening to a fabulous segment on NPR about how the people in Haiti refugee camps have taken to starting businesses in their tents. Astonishing, isn’t it? That business can thrive, and often does, in the direst of circumstances. It got my brain going – and I made a list of 21 businesses someone can start in a refugee camp.
1) Food & Water – Back to the basics. Food and clean water are rare in camps, and FAIR PRICED vendors who can provide fundamental supplies win.
2) Fortune Telling –Read palms or tarot cards for fun? No matter the time or place –people are always eager to know their fortunes.
3) Entertainment – Rescued a Television set? Or put together some hand puppets? Diversion is a valuable commodity during tough times.
4) Beauty Salon – Men still need haircuts and many women will still spend their last dime on lipstick.
5) Bed & Breakfast – Well, not exactly. But, not everyone has a tent. If you setup an extra, you can offer people the comforts of shelter.
6) Restaurant – Got a stove and a magic touch? Make meals for the masses!
7) Education – Can you teach? Lots of parents would be happy to pay a share to have their kids continue their education.
8) An Internet Café – Probably the toughest but arguably the most profitable business to start in a camp. Charge by the hour or by the minute.
9) Phone Recharging Services – For visitors and residents of the camp alike.
10) Clothes and Accessories – Another fundamental of life.
11) Safe Storage – How easy do you think it is for people to keep their treasures safe? Are you trustworthy? Perhaps you can offer to give them peace of mind.
12) Cobbler Services – Shoes always need mending!
13) Messenger Services – Constant chaos can make it hard to communicate. Provide a reliable solution, and you can be in business.
14) Babysitting – Lots of crying babies means eager parents.
15) Jewelry – It may not be a necessity, but this will still thrive in time.
16) Toys – Can you sew together some dolls? You are in business!
17) Nursing – Close quarters of any kind mean more illnesses. Can you provide medical care? If so, you will be in high demand.
18) Legal Aid – People are constantly trying to get their share from the government or migrate or solve some other dilemma. Can you help them?
19) Job Placement – So many people and so much time on their hands. Can you help them get a job?
20) Matrimony Bureau – More commonplace in the third world, people often turn to a bureau to arrange suitable matches.
21) Mediation – Where there are people, there is conflict. Can you mediate and provide peace of mind?
What other ideas can you think of? Perhaps if the list gets long enough, we can have it translated into French and Creole and send it to Haiti.