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Belgian migrant entrepreneurs honoured at MoneyGram European Awards

Winner Obada Otabashi We Exist MoneyGram Awards
12:40 08/11/2019

Brussels-based Syrian refugee Obada Otabashi (pictured, above) was one of the three top winners at the first European MoneyGram Awards 2019 on Thursday evening.

The awards ceremony in Brussels rewarded migrant entrepreneurs for supporting local economies and reinforcing integration in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.

Otabashi founded the Brussels catering company We Exist in 2016. Employing mainly Syrian refugees, it helps people access the labour market and promotes diversity through culinary events. Originally from Damascus, Otabashi risked his life travelling from war-torn Syria to Belgium.

While Otabashi won the growth category, Giuliano Dore, a Belgian of Italian heritage picked up the Innovation award for his London-based mobile barbering platform Get Groomed. Scottish-born Lawrence Richards was the social responsibility category winner for his film production company in Germany.

Cécilia-Sarah Ntelo-Zarafa-MoneyGram Awards

The award and gala night at the Claridge invited all the national award winners from the six countries. For Belgium, the social category champion was Cécilia-Sarah Ntelo (pictured, above). She opened the inclusive nonprofit creche Zarafa in Laeken a year ago for toddlers with and without hearing problems. The 29-year-old of Algerian and Congolese heritage is a psycho-educational specialist.

Hinde Boulbayem was the Belgian national winner In the innovation category. The 38-year-old from Morocco founded her Brussels start-up SUMY for Sustainable Urban Mobility in 2013. Her logistics platform in Neder-Over-Hembeek centralises and delivers customers’ products for canteens, restaurants and hospitals.

Speakers at the awards ceremony included Christos Stylianides, the European commissioner for humanitarian aid & crisis management, senator Sabine de Bethune, honorary president of the Belgian Senate, and Ganshoren mayor Pierre Kompany.

Head of MoneyGram Europe Michael Schütze said: "When we talk about successful integration, we usually talk about the willingness to accept new cultural challenges and finally about building a new existence in a new country. Today I look at you and I see people who have not only made Europe their home, but an entrepreneurial breeding ground for their success."

Written by Sarah Crew