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December 3rd, 2013

Business Outsources Peace to Bethlehem this Christmas

Transcend Call Centre

Christmas is meant to be a time of joy, hope and peace, three things that few would associate with Bethlehem today. Yet on 4th December, British entrepreneur Jerry Marshall is travelling there to visit a unique business he co-founded in May 2012 that aims to bring these to the region.

Transcend ( ) is an 88 seat call centre that aims to bring hope to the West Bank, modelling a different sort of company and playing a role in bringing peace to the region. ‘Exporting’ customer support services and telesales from the West Bank across the Israeli security Wall, Transcend can continue to operate even during border closures and provides much needed jobs and professional skills in Bethlehem.

Last Christmas Transcend was looking like it would go bust, but a year later a miracle has happened: Major contracts have been signed and a venture capital company has bought 40% of the shares guaranteeing Transcend’s long term sustainability. Founded jointly with a Palestinian and an American, the call centre is an inspiring way of ‘transcending’ the Wall and making use of the high level of education and language skills in Bethlehem, helping to build stability so that peace can have a chance on both sides of the Wall.

“We need to be internationally competitive and financially self-sustaining,” said Jerry Marshall. “But our underlying purpose is to serve the local community by creating real jobs, and this in turn brings self-esteem, hope and business connections across the divide.”

Setting up such a pioneering business in the region has been a great challenge even for Jerry who has a history of successful start-ups behind him. The treacherous local politics that he has had to navigate, however, have only served to further convince him of the need to press ahead and seek to bring new ways of working to the area. Northern Ireland has shown how important economic prosperity can be in fostering hope and the desire for a peaceful future in the midst of religious and ethnic conflict. Encouraged by the dramatic change this nation has seen on our doorstep, Jerry is hopeful that Transcend can play a small but significant part in breaking the Israeli-Palestinian impasse further afield.

Employee welfare is also high on Transcend agenda. Already there is a canteen area and a bus to enable employees to get home if they are working late shifts. One of the first employees, Yaman Qaraqe, said, “This transcends political barriers and limitations. I really love that. I am the eldest daughter in the family and I am my family’s hope…I love it because it makes me feel renewed every day.”

In Bethlehem, for the workers of Transcend and their families at least, there will be good reason to celebrate this Christmas and hope for a brighter, safer future in 2014.

In his recently published book Travels with an inflatable elephant, Jerry tells the remarkable and inspiring story of Transcend and how he has been able to use this and other businesses to impact the world for good around the world.

BBC report on business in Bethlehem:

Travels with an Inflatable Elephant: Attempts to Make Things Happen and Not Happen is available from Amazon in paperback and electronic formats:

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