Syrian refugees now number 2.5 million, and Syrians are on track to become the largest refugee population in the world due to the war that has ravaged the country for the last three years.
In response to these staggering figures, Syrian entrepreneur Jahed Akil has developed 8rbtna, an app available for iOS and Android as well as a Facebook page, to disseminate all available refugee services for Syrians in host countries, especially Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, KSA, and Turkey, which host the largest number of Syrian refugees.
Available in the Syrian dialect, 8rbtna (which means ‘our immigration’ in English) aggregates various details of interest to Syrians in these foreign countries. Akil says: “the project periodically publishes job offers found on websites or received by mail from companies looking for employees via our services. We also provide information on the latest governmental decisions related to Syrians in the hosting countries such as grants for schools and universities, required documents, residency, transportation, cost of living, Syrian passport renewal costs, embassies addresses, guest cards in Turkey and how to get them, etc.”
The website and application also give users the chance to offer their services or ask help from one of the members.
The source of inspiration for this project was Akil’s personal experience. Almost a year ago, he was forced to flee to Turkey, cutting short his 4th year of studies in computer engineering.
Since launching 8rbtna last January, and despite a weak marketing effort (due to lack of resources), the app has been downloaded 5,000 times on Android, and 2,500 on iOS. The website has logged 7,000 visits, and the Facebook page has 11,000 likes.
A number of qualified volunteers have joined the 8rbtna team in an attempt to ameliorate the Syrian refugee crisis. But this isn’t enough; Akil is still planning to expand so as to provide the most help for the most number of refugees.
Akil believes that his project’s expansion is only possible through marketing campaigns on social media; these have previously proved their usefulness in facilitating the success of companies from various sectors.
Until now, 8rbtna has relied on personal funding, which has made it difficult for Akil to launch marketing campaigns, hire, and develop the app’s software. For these reasons, Akil is trying to get funding from community-based and humanitarian organizations to achieve more stability.
8rbtna is not currently a for-profit organization, but things might soon change. According to Akil, “during the last few months, we’ve had new marketing ideas that could both benefit the user and lead to a profit model. But we can’t confirm this until these ideas are really implemented.”