In my first blog post I discussed how you should “trust God, but always tie your camel,” a reference in Muslim culture to the idea that although it’s good to hope for the best and go with the flow, it’s your responsibility to make the effort and take steps in a certain direction if you want something to happen. Before I left America, I raised funds for my time abroad. These funds were to be used for a research project I hoped to undertake in Jordan. Before I traveled, I created a “tangible goals” list, but I had left enough room for flexibility in case the unexpected occurred, which is actually what happened.
As I mentioned in my last post, through my work at Project Amal ou Salam, I met a Syrian man. It turns out that his brother owned a Syrian volunteer group called “Hemma,” a group which brings both physical relief and relief in the form of training and human development to Syrian refugees. I attended an awards ceremony they held for their one-year anniversary, where they recognized me for the work I had done with Syrians in Project Amal ou Salam. As I saw all of the work they were doing, and did some research on my own, I realized that I had found a perfect outlet to connect what I was learning in class to what I wanted to do in the field. In my coursework, I study economic development, and how that occurs through human development. I met with the leaders of Hemma, and together we came up with a project.
This project involves training Syrian refugees here in Amman, ages 10-15, to volunteer. Although this seems very simple from the eyes of a westerner, the concept of ‘civil society’ is something that is not prevalent in this culture. This project will train Syrian refugee students for one month on how to volunteer. Then, they will create volunteer projects on their own, and will be able to implement it through the help of Hemma. I met with the leaders of Hemma group all throughout last week to work out every part of this project, as we figured out the logistics, the reasoning behind it, the impact it would leave and how to make it sustainable so that it could continue on into the future. The funds I raised for my research will be used to jump-start this long-term/sustainable project.
The goal of this project is to teach these students a new skill for life. They will then have the opportunity to be their own leaders and create their own projects, which will be empowering them. As their volunteer projects come to life, we will be documenting them and spreading them around through different outlets, including online, newspapers and TV media. This will spread the word about the project even more, attracting not only donors (which we need to continue to make this project sustainable), but also other young people who will see the value behind the work that these young people are engaging in. With the current civil war in Syria, it is not feasible to just have refugees come into the country without properly integrating them into society. This will contribute not just to Syrians, but Jordanian society as well, as the hope of the project is for it to spread to Jordanian students as well. With this project, we hope to increase the lack of civil society in the country, strengthen institutions, and instill the values of public service in whole generation. All of this counts as human development, which in turn, will hopefully lead to economic development.