One workweek down and I’ve made it through many language, cultural, and directional barriers. I’m working at the Jordan River Foundation, which is an enormously successful non-profit NGO headquartered in Amman. JRF is primarily focused on child safety and community empowerment, and has created numerous programs in Jordan to address these issues. With the increased influx of Syrian refugees, the programs have become so much more vital. Let me tell you about what I learned on my second day at work.
I met up with my boss, and she said I could tag along to a CBO (community based organization) celebration happening in East Amman. JRF uses community mobilizers and staff to help institute these incredible community programs through the Makani project. When I arrived, I sat and watched over a hundred children cheering as Jordanian, Syrian, Iraqi, Palestinian and Circassian groups performed traditional dances. I was given the camera for a bit, and logically went on a mission to make kids smile. There was so much happiness in this tiny park–my job was easy.
The different cultures each set up booths with traditional art, food, games and more from their home countries. The goal is to bring all these immigrants, refugees and Jordanians together in order to strengthen the community and empower the people. This was strikingly relevant to some problems in the US, and I was incredibly impressed that this community had been able to tackle an issue that we tend to ignore. They now have a greater priority of improving the community, and that priority has a prerequisite of acceptance.
Overall, I don’t think I’ve ever smiled that much in a 3-hour period. A few days later, I tagged along on a trip to Karak (south of Amman) to check up on a center JRF created. The building had three rooms that were used to teach Arabic, English and Math to Syrian refugees and poor Jordanians. I learned that the public school system is overwhelmed and has little room for all of the Jordanian children, let alone the increasing refugee population. But the kids so badly want to learn, want to make their teachers and parents proud. I have to tell myself that the efforts of NGOs and local governments will make this a possibility.
I’m absurdly lucky to be able to see first hand what I’ve read about in the news. While I sit in the office doing research and reading proposals, the kids put everything into perspective. Here’s what I’m learning: Happiness knows no language, love knows no religion, respect knows no borders. Jordan is an incredible country, in more ways than just its culture and beauty. Jordanians have embraced their neighbors in an incredible turbulent political time for the Middle East. This is easy to say, but it’s difficult to comprehend how much time, effort and resources are expended to help those in need. And this help is being offered to other nations while Jordanians are still suffering from poverty and unemployment.
I’m looking forward to working on proposals to institute and fund additional projects and facilities for JRF. The need for psychosocial support and child protection is extreme, especially in refugee populations. For the 54 days I have left here, I’m letting my priorities be challenged and changed. Here’s to doing my little part to help the people here, and letting everyone I meet teach me about the world.