anon-user down-chevron-sm facebook-mdi instagram-mdi twitter-mdi

Meet Malik: a 22-year old refugee with a small cafe and big dreams

As a college student and Palestinian refugee living in the West Bank, 22 year-old Malik dreams of becoming a journalist. In the meantime, he operates a small café business to support himself and his family.

After COVID-19 forced him to shut down his business for four months, with no income at all, Malik was forced to pause his studies for two semesters and put his dreams on hold. A Kiva loan, funded by 42 Kiva lenders, allowed him to revive his business after the shutdown and entice customers back to the café, where they can enjoy refreshments like tea and coffee and watch sports. 

"My life has improved after I took the loan. I was able to rely on myself again, and return to complete my studies, and help my family with living expenses."

“I bought a TV, refrigerator, oven, stove, and an Xbox. I added cold drinks and fast food to the menu,” he says proudly, describing how he used the USD$1,500 loan to upgrade the cafe’s furniture, expand its offerings, and give people a place to cheer on their favorite soccer team in the evenings. 

He also credits the loan with helping restore his sense of independence: “I stood up on my own feet again!”

Now Malik oversees a bustling business serving coffee and snacks in his small town of approximately 3,500, where clashes between Palestinian protestors and Israeli military take place regularly. Malik stays busy by focusing on his studies during the day and running the café in the afternoon and evening.

Malik preparing coffee in his cafe

Working for a better future

After his family became displaced from their home, Malik and his family have worked to build financial stability. “I am originally a refugee from the occupied city of Safed,” says Malik. “We hope to return to it. According to what my grandfather told me, we had lands, orchards, and many good things.”

“If there had been no occupation, we would have been among the wealthiest people in that city.”

Malik’s father, who he counts as his most important role model, moved the family to Saudi Arabia for a time to find work before settling in a small village in the West Bank, where the majority of the labor force works in the agricultural sector.   

Farming activity is not a viable option for Malik, who suffers from thalassemia, a hereditary blood disorder signified by low levels of hemoglobin that can cause anemia and leave patients sick and fatigued. 

He has set his sights on completing his degree in New Media and forging a photojournalism career with a governmental or a global institution.

“From a very young age my dream has been to study media, and to be a successful journalist,” he says.  

“A hobby of mine is photography, too. I always go out in nature to take photos.”

Malik with his father and role model

Improving lives with loans to refugees 

“After taking the loan, I started to rely on myself again, and things started to go back to the way they were before." 

Malik’s Kiva loan was made possible by microfinance institution FATEN, a trusted Kiva Field Partner that supports entrepreneurs in Palestine. Founded in 1999, FATEN originally served only women, issuing group loans in marginalized communities to help them start small businesses. Since then, the organization has expanded its reach to include rural farmers and students, with a focus on reducing poverty.

With 35 branches and one virtual branch with 270 employees that cover over 500 sites including refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza, FATEN offers a variety of microfinance services, including loans for:

  • Businesses
  • Housing
  • Agriculture
  • Renewable energy
  • COVID-19 Emergency Assistance

The institution has recently launched efforts to help young people in Palestine, where the youth unemployment rate reached 45 percent in 2020.  To encourage higher education and entrepreneurship, FATEN has designed specific loan products and services, such as:

  • Tuition loans
  • Computer loans 
  • Health services
  • Economic outreach 

For Malik, the organization was a lifeline that enabled him to develop as both a student and an entrepreneur. He reports that the procedure was “quick and straightforward,” offering economic assistance when other entities could not.  

“After taking the loan, I started to rely on myself again, and things started to go back to the way they were before,” he says. 

Learn more about Malik here:


How the impact of Malik’s loan continues 

While COVID-19 interrupted his business and education, Malik worked hard to make the most of his loan and invest in the cafe’s sustainability—and his own future. He now pays his college tuition and contributes to his family’s expenses out of profits from the cafe, an example of how the positive impact of one loan funded on Kiva can continue to reverberate through a borrower’s life. 

"My life has improved after I took the loan,” affirms the young businessman. “I was able to rely on myself again, and return to complete my studies, and help my family with living expenses."

For young men like Malik, a small loan can make a huge impact on their future prospects. 

Fund a loan to a refugee

About the author

Jessica Leigh Lebos

Jessica Leigh Lebos is Kiva's Senior Storyteller and an award-winning writer based in Savannah, Georgia, USA. Covering social justice, cultural equity, sustainable growth, financial literacy, and always celebrating others' success, she is thrilled to help share Kiva's mission—and the stories of the people it connects.