This is the story of a very successful encounter: a story between two young Swiss entrepreneurs and a young Afghan.
The company is called Alles gut! Gemüse Kebab and the two young entrepreneurs are two childhood friends, Yohann and Romain. Fans of the famous Gemüse Kebab in Berlin, they took on the challenge of opening the first sustainable kebab in Geneva. In 2020, in an arcade on the Avenue Ernest-Ansermet, the ecologically and socially responsible kebab will make its debut. Inspired by the Chamber of Social and Solidarity Economy (ESS), they share its values, considering economic activity as a service to society and the planet's ecological limits as non-negotiable. Their model is based on the three pillars of sustainable development: environmental, economic and social. They are pioneers in the fast food sector in Geneva.
In a context of environmental and human crisis, the war in Syria led the two entrepreneurs to question their ability to act in Geneva, and in particular at the level of their nascent business. Sensitised to migration issues after the broadcast of Ai Weiwei's film Human flow at the FIFDH in 2019, and challenged by it, they decided to create a professional integration programme with which they could make a positive impact.
It's a new challenge for young entrepreneurs in a new environment with which they are less familiar. They quickly realised that they lacked a network and contacted several specialised organisations, without any follow-up. The kebab was about to open and the programme was struggling to get off the ground. Following an accidental meeting, Romain met Emmanuelle, the director of Yojoa. A conversation was all that was needed to get things moving. Gemüse were on the train to integration.
For Atiq, it's a completely different journey. Forced to leave Afghanistan at the age of thirteen under the threat of the Taliban, he arrived in Switzerland after a two-year journey, two years without contact with his parents, two years alone most of the time. His journey was not without its difficulties. He passes through Iran and arrives in Turkey, where he works in a metal factory for fourteen hours a day, with one day off a month; he is fourteen years old. Realising that there was no future for him in Turkey, he saved his money and decided to leave for Europe. He entered Bulgaria, got lost in a forest where he slept in the trees for two weeks, and finally reached Serbia. He crosses the Hungarian border with difficulty and scars. On the advice of a Turkish taxi driver, he went to Austria. Thinking of going to Germany, he gets on a bus that takes him... to Basel! It is 2016, Atiq is sixteen years old, he has just arrived in a country he did not know existed, Switzerland.
"From time to time, when I think about my journey, I laugh that I'm still alive! "Atiq
One might think that everything would be fine from then on, but the first years in Geneva were not so easy. After the ups and downs of finding accommodation, the first steps towards integration were enough to discourage him. But that is not Atiq's character; his will and the few wonderful encounters he had along the way led him to school, the first step towards learning French, the first step towards emancipation.
In 2018, his teacher put him in touch with Emmanuelle in a career orientation class, who facilitated his access to internships. In 2019, he obtained his F licence and found his first job in a Turkish restaurant.
Meanwhile, the Gemüse kebab project is progressing, and through Yojoa they are meeting young people looking for work experience in the restaurant industry, but the language barrier is too great.
In 2021, Atiq is still working in his restaurant, but the conditions are no longer good and he wants to quit. He calls the Yojoa team and explains his situation. They contacted Gemüse Kebab the same day and suggested that Yohann and Romain meet Atiq. A week later, he was hired.
They shared the rest with us.
"We hit it off straight away. His charming personality, his skills and his autonomy convinced us right from the start! "Yohann and Romain
At the administrative level, everything is easier than you might think. All you have to do is fill in a form and send it to the Cantonal Population and Migration Office.
For Gemüse too, Atiq is a godsend: he has many skills and, above all, experience. His autonomy saves time and his knowledge of kebabs allows us to develop processes and techniques, especially for slicing the meat on the famous homemade spit. Atiq is a worker, he never stops, which helps the team.
On a human level, his listening and questioning skills allowed him to self-reflect and integrate very easily into the team. His philosophy of life, which he shared with his new bosses, led to a relationship of exchange and sharing that quickly turned into a relationship of friendship.
For Atiq, Gemüse is a godsend: he joins a small mixed team that operates horizontally, the change he needed to thrive in a caring work environment. The icing on the cake is that his French is improving rapidly, allowing him to make new contacts. This new job is also a way of gaining more stability and finally being able to project himself into a more serene future.
The culture and the people will not adapt to you, you must adapt and integrate wherever you are. You have to respect every culture. If you don't learn the language, you can't do anything. For example, you have nothing to lose by smiling at your neighbours. "Atiq
Atiq's commitment is an added value for the young company. It positively shakes up the way things are done and allows us to rethink the internal workings, the relationships between employees, their wellbeing and the overall development of the restaurant.
Today, the future is green for Gemüse and Atiq. The company is expanding and has won a project from the City of Geneva to occupy the Place du Mont-Banc esplanade. A new arcade is being built at Les Eaux-vives, and Atiq starts work as head chef and operations manager. At the same time, he is applying for a B licence, with the help of Yohann, Romain and Yojoa, and is thinking about taking a well-deserved holiday.