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Ummul undertaking project work in Syria

Getting start-up funding in cold Damascus

Fun, sacrifice and a certain obsessiveness got me going but, of course, starting a start-up needs money. I worked, saved and invested my money back into the charity. I had the help of a friend who managed to get us a donation of just over £4,000. But initially, it really was about the volunteer spirit, and what I was willing to give. (I don’t come from a wealthy background, so nope, I’m not one of those rich kids with money.)

Here’s what I learnt about getting start-up funding.

Ask for help

I asked for help from everyone, I knew I didn’t know things and it didn’t bother me. My cause was greater than my own ego. I asked Google, I asked friends, I asked friends of friends. I asked and I ended up with some great answers, as well as practical support.

Drop your own assumptions

Observe what is happening around you and see how you can work with what is in front of you. Not having an NGO background made me more creative, I didn’t have any assumptions about how things should be. That freed me.


I happily created professional-looking documents seated on the floor of an old Damascus house. What I didn’t know, I improvised.


Do it. Syria was a small community of internationals, and everyone had connections or something to offer. It was worth investing in those late nights. Trawl those parties and network like crazy.

Friends and family

The people around you are a great source of emotional support along the way. Tap this resource unashamedly.

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