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December 2, 2021

Graduate starts refugee camp's first ever gaming centre

Awjalan Fatimi, a 24-year-old IT graduate, lives in Darashakran refugee camp, near Erbil. He founded the camp's first-ever gaming centre, receiving 40-80 keen, young gamers per day. The centre provides a safe place for young people to meet, relax and game.

Awjalan opened the first gaming centre in Darashakran refugee camp near Erbil, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq © 2021, SPARK

Awjalan was only 13 when the war started in Syria and he fled with his family to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, seeking safety and stability. 

Awjalan’s love and passion for gaming and computers started when he was 8 years old.

“In 2019, I had thought about opening a gaming centre at my camp, Darashakran. But it was only after I graduated that I really started working on it and finally opened the centre,” says Awjalan.

Awjalan's mother waves goodbye as he heads to the gaming centre he founded in Darashakran refugee camp © 2021, SPARK
Awjalan at home in Darashakran refugee camp © 2021, SPARK

“I start my day around 10am, have breakfast with my family and then I have online courses for an hour before I head to my gaming place”.

Each morning, Awjalan’s mother walks him to the door to say goodbye and wish him a successful day ahead.

Nady Al Shabab gaming centre receives 40-80 customers a day © 2021, SPARK

His gaming centre is called Nady Al Shabab (youth club in English), which is 10 minutes away from his home.

“I get around 40-80 customers a day, all aged between 7 to 30 years old,” says Awjalan.

“Young people, especially kids, love coming to my place. To them, I’m some sort of hero!” © 2021, SPARK

“Young people, especially kids, love coming to my place. It takes their minds off of what’s happening around them and in their home countries. They always ask me to play with them and show them gaming tricks. To them, I’m some sort of hero!”

Awjalan graduated this year from the IT department at Noble Institute in Erbil with a scholarship provided by SPARK, financed by the Islamic Development Bank, Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development and the Sheikh Abdullah Al Nouri Charity Society.

“Studying IT helped me with many things....how to deal with computer problems and how to fix PCs" © 2021, SPARK

Studying IT helped me with many things. They taught us how to build networks and how to deal with computer problems and how to fix PCs, and also taught me other skills for helping me to deal with my business, like accounting,” says Awjalan. 

"[Gaming] takes their minds off of what's happening around them and in their home countries." © 2021, SPARK

Awjalan’s advice for young entrepreneurs who are just starting is to never make excuses, always keep trying and move forward.

“Before opening a business, you need to ask yourself: will I still love my business four or five years from now? My answer to that question is YES!”