Week 5: Breaking Normal – The Farm

Since being in Jordan, I’ve discovered my fascinating ability to adapt and create a “new normal” within days. It’s incredibly easy to forget how different my life is during these 9 weeks, compared to a summer in Philadelphia or at the Jersey Shore. There have been days that have gone by without me consciously acknowledging that I’m in Jordan. It’s a weird thing, but it’s a beautiful thing.

My new normal consists of taking cabs to and from work, eating large meals at 7:50 pm and 3 am during Ramadan, speaking exclusively in Arabic with my host parents, being the only female(s) in a cafe after 9 pm, and so, so much more. The culture is so different and immersing myself in it has been a treat. But when you get into a routine, it’s easy to forget your purpose.

I’ve learned so much from working at the Jordan River Foundation and living in Amman. I’ve met incredible humans and seen multiple lives changed–yet beyond my research and personal growth, there’s a yearning to have a concrete impact on this population.

In that sense, the farm has been an enormous blessing to me and our Duke Engage group, and inshAllah we can be a blessing to the farm. We’ve traveled up to al-Mafraq, a city near the Syrian border, a few times to explore the farm and meet the refugees. In the early afternoon, we arrive to a large, fruitful, well-organized farm bustling with workers trying to finish before the worst sun of the day arrives. Just outside of the farm, a few dozen tents make up a community for the Syrian refugees who work on the farm. It’s extremely difficult to describe these people in one word–they’re refugees, they’re hard-working, humble, compassionate, frightened, and hopeful.They’ve left their home country, fleeing war and moving towards a better life for themselves and their children. They’re people.

After becoming familiar with the farm and building relationships with the refugees, our group decided on our goal: to help the farm with basic needs and future sustainability. When you ask someone living on the farm what they need, they hesitate to ask for anything. After prying, they’ll mention how the mosque needs air condition and a water cooler, and how the children need new clothing. I remember thinking to myself, “This is good, these are things we can help them with”. And so we are.

We’ve started a fundraising campaign that has raised $1,373 to date. This is amount is enough to buy the most necessary items and to kickstart some new projects. This week, we hope to provide the women working on the farm with the supplies and knowledge to make jam, and possibly sun-dried tomatoes. This sounds simple, but any way to create more revenue and sustainability for the farm will create a lasting benefit. Our group acknowledges that in four weeks, we’re gone from Jordan indefinitely, so we have to try to create change that transcends our time here. We’re giving them fish, but we’re also going to give them tools to fish themselves.

A constant thought I’ve had while developing this project, and especially while asking people to donate money, was “why should they help THIS group?” On the issue of refugees alone, there are countless established camps and prominent organizations that one could donate to. But the difference is that we are able to help this group of people. In our short time here, we have the means (with the help of generous donors) to make the lives of the people on the farm drastically better. It doesn’t take much, but we can do it, and we should.

Helping the farm has brought so much joy to myself and my Duke Engage cohort. The people are so deserving, which makes us so eager to bring them good news. In the next few weeks, we hope to do our part in helping this farm– and in a larger sense, giving back to the Jordanian community that has given so much to us in our time here.

– Lindsey

Check out the fundraiser here:
https://www.crowdrise.com/the-al-mafraq-farm-project

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