Back to the Future: Returning Home to a New Life and Business Venture

Date Publish: 
Nicaragua / America

With a shy half smile, Socorro Morales, a 54-year-old slight, frail
woman, hesitantly begins to tell her story.

Surrounded by sewing machines, stacks of carefully folded
fabrics, half-made garments and all other sewing accoutrements,
Socorro confesses that dressmaking was never her thing, but says
business is thriving.

"Work comes along each day. God has helped me. Every day I get
new clients. I'm moving along, moving right along," says Socorro,
as she starts to gain confidence, and adds: "I am so happy to be
with my son again."

In 2006, Socorro was approached by a friend who had relatives in
Geneva, Switzerland and was thinking of going there in search of

Migrating clear across the world with an airline ticket and USD
500 in cash, may seem a very risky proposition for the quiet and
shy Socorro, but she shakes her head and says: "Necessity, that's
what pushed me to migrate. No, I was not afraid to leave Nicaragua
and travel to Switzerland."

One month after landing in Geneva she got her first job as a
domestic worker. She worked from dawn to dusk (6AM to 7PM)
cleaning, cooking, and babysitting.

Her idea was to stay in Switzerland for six years, garner up
some savings and return home to her teenage son. But four years
into her migration experience, she was diagnosed with cancer.

"Luckily, I had health insurance and was operated and received
all of the care and treatments I needed. My health care was
excellent," states Socorro.

The first four years she worked full time and managed to save a
little, although rent, health insurance, food, transportation and
USD 150 in monthly remittances to her son and parents-in-law ate up
the vast majority of her 1,200 to 1,500 Swiss Franc salary each

But after her illness she could only work part-time and could
not make ends meet. And so she started planning her return to

"As I was home convalescing, a Swiss social worker told me about
the Assisted Voluntary Return Programme (AVRR) and I immediately
made up my mind to sign up," recalls Socorro.

She returned to Nicaragua in April 2011 and immediately began
working on her reintegration plans with IOM.

The Swiss-funded programme provides 3,000 Swiss Francs for each
returnee to set up a business or return to school.

"The first contact is very important because IOM is just a name
to the returnee. They need to see our faces, we must earn their
trust. This makes the entire process smoother and more successful,"
says Eleonora Puddu, Project Assistant, IOM Nicaragua.

Once Socorro's business plan was designed and agreed upon, IOM
assisted her with the purchase of four sewing machines, tables,
fabric, scissors, buttons, zippers and other needs.

Now that she has an employee, she says she is careful not to
keep her assistant too many hours because "she has a family to tend

She lives with her in-laws, who took care of her son while she
was away, in the town of Tipitapa, some 30 minutes outside the
capital Managua.

"My son's grandparents provided the space for my sewing room,
and they treat me like their daughter. But my plans for this year
include building a home with a separate place for my business on a
small plot of land close to this house," says Socorro.

Her 15-year-old son Abel says he would leave Nicaragua and look
for better opportunities elsewhere.

Does this make her nervous after what she experienced?

"No, not really. For a young healthy person, migration is always
a good option. Anyways, human beings never believe what they hear;
we have to live our own experiences. But I will not leave Nicaragua
again. My plans for the future are here with my past," says

Since 2010 IOM Nicaragua has provided reintegration assistance
to seven migrants who returned from Switzerland.

"They tell us they are happy and doing well, and that the
reintegration assistance has been a great help," says Puddu.

Socorro Morales, a 54-year-old Nicaraguan returnee works on her sewing machine which was part of the assistance given to her by IOM. The Assisted Voluntary Return Programme (AVRR), a Swiss-funded programme provided 3,000 Swiss Francs for each returnee to set up a business or return to school. © IOM 2012