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By numzzz123


Receiving an award for for my service at the Hemma Celebration

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.

Brainstorming and project planning

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.

By numzzz123

IMG_3248Working with Syrian Refugee Children in Project Amal ou Salam has been eye opening in more ways than one. Through subtle signs and mannerisms throughout the week, I was able to read into their lives. I could see their poverty in the way they quietly saved the food we gave them, to bring it home to their brothers and sisters. I saw their vulnerability and hurt in the way they held on to each other, in a bond of understanding none of us could comprehend. Many without parents, I saw the lack of nurturing in the way they clung on to the volunteers throughout the day, longing to receive the attention they deserve.

We took them to sports class where they learned about unity, photography where they learned about viewing one event from different perspectives, to art where they “rebuilt Syria,” music where they participated in harmonizing, and trust/team building, where they utilized and embraced the power of standing by each other. I knew the camp’s efforts had left an impact, as the kids made us promise to come back again at the end of each day.

Project Amal ou Salam is in the stage of reflection now. We have been discussing what went well, what can be improved for future camps, and what kind of impact it left on us as well. The next camp will be held in August at the Syrian border in Lebanon. Now that I’ve finally worked with this group first hand, it is time for me to take the next step.

Earlier this week, I met with the owner of Hemmah Volunteering group, who is the brother of one of the volunteers I worked with at Project Amal ou Salam. Hemmah Volunteering Group is a social working trust group, which helps people in emergency and development. The Hemmah Group does a lot of aid relief for Syrian refugees all over Jordan, from providing logistical support, physical support emotional support, and more. The goal of Hemmah is to not just to bring about short-term relief, but with the trained psychologists as part of the team, they work towards a long-term sustainable recovery. One of the biggest problems dealing with refugees is the fact that many development organizations give them what they think the refugees want, rather then taking time to talk to the people and figure out what they actually need and want. After my experience working with 1,000 Syrian refugee children in one week, I will now have the chance to speak one on one with families and get a more in depth understanding about their situations over a longer period of time.


There is no immediate end of this conflict in sight, but the victims, especially the little ones, of the Syrian war are alive and every day they face struggle. They are the future of Syria and more efforts like this are needed to empower the youth. The future of the world lies within the youth, and for a peaceful tomorrow, we need to create more efforts to instill hope and education in them today.

Talking with Syrian refugee children

This week I had a truly eye-opening experience. After months of waiting, the week had finally arrived where I would travel north to the Syrian border to work with Syrian refugee children through Project Amal ou Salam.

Project Amal ou Salam is a week long camp for Syrian Refugee children. We had 20 volunteers fly in from around the world to participate. In this week, I worked with close to 1,000 Syrian Refugee children. I really had no idea what I was in for before the week began, but now that it has ended, it is time for me to reflect on what just happened.

I was a team leader for “Fareek al-Ahmar” (Team Red). Between me and one other girl, we were assigned to take care of up to 50 Syrian Refugee children each day, between the ages of 5-13. I have held many internships in my life dealing with international affairs, but this was the first time I actually found myself in the field, dealing first hand with refugees. Every day, we arrived early morning at the venue we had rented out for the camp. The children would arrive and we split them up based on their age groups. We took them around all day to different workshops including sports, photography, art, music and team building/trust building. A lot of these kids don’t even go to school, and this was the one-day they had a chance to experience the life of a child. It was a day of empowerment for them, as we asked them to rebuild Syria in art class, taught them about viewing one issue from different perspectives in photography class, and more. At the end of each day, we I was met with hard goodbyes from the kids, as they made me promise that I would see them again the next day.

Every day, little Syrian refugees came in from all walks of life, but they had one thing in common: they all had their childhoods ripped away from them. I was so shocked to discover so many things. I noticed kids without limbs, kids with scars all over their face, kids in extreme distress. Throughout the days, we would feed the children breakfast, lunch and a snack, yet many of them kept coming up to me and telling me they were hungry. I found out later that they were quietly saving the food we were giving them to bring home to their siblings. I found out that many of them did not have both parents, or any parents. I witnessed with my own eyes six year olds screaming chants about bringing down the regime, bringing down Bashaar Assad.

As I was talking to these children, I gained more and more knowledge about their backgrounds. Engaging in conversations with these little kids, I learned how much they knew about the world. They knew all about the war, they knew about nationalism, they knew about pain, hunger, death and suffering. They have been through more than any human should ever go through, and at such a young age. Their ‘backpacks’ that they carried were small black totes with the title “UNHCR” written across them. These were the refugees; these were the kids that were in such a devastating place in life that aid had to be delivered.

One thing I noticed as well was that these kids never smiled in the photos I took. The only time they did smile was when I caught them actually being happy. It’s very interesting since we grew up our lives learning that you should always smile in pictures. These kids only smile when they actually feel the emotion. I feel so lucky that I could have been a part of this project to bring them that emotion, and I hope that there are many more projects like these in the future to help empower the youth of Syria and give them hope for the future.

Playing with the children

By numzzz123


A Bedouin man was in the desert with his camel. At night, he was going to sleep and did not tie his camel. When asked why he didn’t, he said that he trusted God to keep his camel there the next day. When he woke up the next day, it wasn’t.

Moral of the story? Trust God, but always tie your camel.     This is a hadith, a prophetic saying, known by many in the Middle East.

Going into the Middle East, I was hopeful that I would be able to do in country networking and locate a volunteer opportunity while there. However, before I left the USA, I made sure to tie my camel. In other words, although I trusted God, I made sure to put in the effort to do research about current efforts in the Middle East, rather than just hoping something would present itself to me while I was there.

It was so easy to dream up all of the possibilities from my bubble in America, but I knew the realities of the situation would be much different once I arrived in the country, and I wanted to be prepared. I was lucky enough that one of my cousins in America married a Jordanian, so she was able to guide me in the right direction and give me an idea of the realities before I arrived in country. I realized early on in the process that although I had some smaller research goals I wanted to tackle on my own, there would be many obstacles to entering into any of the refugee camps. I had to find a way around this, and that was to gain access by being part of a larger organization. I looked up a number of multi national organizations that were active around Amman and in Zaatari, the largest Syrian refugee camp in Jordan.  These included UNHCR, UNICEF, Mercy Corps and more. I also looked into smaller NGOs that were local, because working in a smaller organization would provide me with a completely different experience than working in a large one.

While I was doing my searching, I kept coming across a name. This person was actively doing work with Syrian Refugees all over the region, including in Jordan. After doing some more research, I realized he worked for CRDC – The Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution. I found an email address online and decided to take the chance and send an email to see if there was an opportunity to work with them while abroad.  At this point, I had nothing to lose...and a lot to gain.

I ended up getting a response. They wanted to meet with me in Amman. When I arrived in Amman, I met up with two employees of CRDC. As we began talking, I found out that they were spearheading a project called Project Amal ou Salam. It was a week long camp for Syrian Refugee children, which was to be held in March. This seemed exactly like the hands on opportunity I was looking for, and I immediately jumped on board.

Project Amal ou Salam was founded in Summer 2013. The first camp was held for Syrian Refugee children in Turkey, and it was a success. The second camp was going to be held in Jordan, on the outskirts of Zaatari. Most of the aid that is sent to the refugees goes into one of the camps. Within the camp, there are many resources for children, including activities, sports, schools, etc. However, there are many Syrian refugee towns right outside of Zaatari, who live in meager conditions and receive no aid at all. This is where the Camp directors felt the most impact could be left. This camp would be bigger than before, bringing in 250 different Syrian children a day, and held in two different locations throughout the week. The purpose of the camp is to bring empowerment to these children who have grown up in war, to give them hope and remind them that they are the future of Syria.

The camp has different stations for art, music, photography, dealing with trauma, and much more. It brings in volunteers from countries around the world. This is only the second of its kind, with the other one operating in Turkey. I have been assigned as an intern of CRDC for this project. I am working directly with the Camp director in dealing with the logistics of this camp. Over the next few weeks leading up to the camp, I will be doing hands on work including doing site visits for the camp, working closely with the volunteers arriving from the country, working out details of supplies and day to day issues, and much more. On the actual days of the camp, I will be a team leader. I will have a different group of 50 Syrian refugee children assigned to me each day and will be in charge of them for the whole day. I am really excited and nervous at the same time. This is more than anything I could have dreamed of. Not only will I be working with such inspiring and ambitious people who will be running the camp, but I will have a rare opportunity to interact with the children of this conflict which is just a news story for so many around the world. I will be taking pictures and am excited to let you know how it goes.

By numzzz123

This semester, I chose to study at AMIDEAST in Amman, Jordan. I chose this program because it offered courses related to both of my majors (Economics and International Affairs). This past summer, I interned in Cairo as a research assistant at the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies at The American University in Cairo. Since this semester would not be my first time in the Middle East, I had a clearer picture of what I wanted to accomplish during my time abroad. For me, a semester abroad was definitely not a trip to just have fun and travel. It was an extremely career oriented journey, and that’s why I made a comprehensive list of goals before I left America. With my experience in Egypt this past summer, I realized the importance of using my voice to spread a message, especially since we have the capability and resources to reach large audiences in the West. My plan was to utilize contacts and create a network so that I could find an internship in Amman that would give me the hard skills I needed in my field. Through this work opportunity, I hoped to discover ways in which I could go one step further than just volunteering, by doing some sort of research. With the current refugee crisis in Jordan, working with an organization that deals with refugees is something I have a keen interest in. One thing I constantly heard about study abroad from those who have done it before is that the semester flies by. To avoid a shock at the end of the semester, I drew out a timeline in my agenda with smaller target goals for each month. It is a great way to help me keep track of my journey and make sure that I am on track.

When I emerge from the Middle East, I want to have a clear explanation of what kind of volunteer/research I did, how it left an impact, why it’s important, and what the next step is. This volunteer work is going to be as much for my own understanding, knowledge, and learning as it is for my desire to somehow give a positive contribution to a community.

By numzzz123

Ahlan wa sahlan! My name is Anum Malik and I am a junior at The George Washington University, double majoring in economics and international affairs. This past summer, I ventured into Egypt to do research, but ended up finding myself in the middle of the 2013 Egyptian Counterrevolution. It challenged my way of thinking and I emerged as a person with a newfound understanding and curious passion for the Middle East. I will continue my learning adventure by heading to Jordan this semester to not only study, but also conduct a volunteer/research project so that I can find the most efficient way to leave an impact on the region. Thanks to this past summer, I am expecting the unexpected as I head back into the Middle East, and I am extremely excited to once again step out of my comfort zone and embrace what is yet to come.