Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Education, Empowerment, and Kindness (Syrian Refugee Blog Series Day 6)

Education, Empowerment, and Kindness: Day 6

December 19, 2017

Blog 6 PicturesToday, our experiences focused our attention on ways to address the refugee crisis and what the Syrian people want—an approach frequently overlooked. We first experienced this while meeting with a community-based organization in a poor neighborhood in Jordan whose work is centered around helping Syrian refugees and their low-income neighbors integrate into society. They offer supplemental education for children and adults who have not had access to school for long periods of time or who lack basic education.

We learned that many of the Syrian families who fled to Jordan have low levels of education because they came from poor, rural areas. As they continue to live in poverty in Jordan, it can be difficult for them to understand the importance of education for their own children and not fall prey to temptations like sending their children to work instead. The organization we visited developed an innovative solution: each child is given 1 Jordanian dinar to attend school each day. The money allows families to afford keeping their children in school, and has thus far been effective in achieving this goal.

Throughout the day, our attention continued to focus on different ways of addressing the refugee crisis. One of the people we spoke to told us that if you ask a refugee what they need, they will tell you that they do not need food, water or a first aid kid. They need empowerment, something that is not offered through mere donations or sympathy.

It made me question what empowerment really is. Does it come with education and having a job that helps sustain your life? Or is there something more. Does it also include allowing someone to feel as if they genuinely belong in a country or that they have the option to live freely within the country?  For instance, the community-based organization offered programming for women's empowerment by assisting them in creating handicrafts to sell, while also working on developing their self-confidence and business skills as entrepreneurs. 

Perhaps it has something to do with avoiding making the Syrians feel as if they are a project that needs saving. For example, we learned that during the beginning of this crisis, many Syrians avoided registering as refugees with the UNHCR because they wanted to avoid being labeled as a member of a vulnerable community or to perceive themselves that way. Can empowerment simply be given in the way we perceive and portray a Syrian person?

Blog 6 Pictures2A recurring theme that echoes through the cities of Jordan is the kindness and generosity of Jordanians.  I believe these traits might also be a contributing factor to addressing the Syrian crisis. As the blog post mentioned yesterday, we do hear about the tensions between the Jordanian and Syrian people living in Jordan, and it is understandable. Many Jordanians live in poverty, and the international community is slowly starting to realize that in responding to protracted crises like these, it is just as important to support the refugees as it is to support their host communities.

But our meetings today were deeply moving in the ways they showed how generous and welcoming Jordanians are. The community-based organization we visited today serves low-income Syrians and Jordanians equally. One phrase I kept hearing whenever we asked about any tension was that, “there is no Jordanian and Syrian when asking for help; there is only human.” It was extremely uplifting to hear these words and realize that although tensions here surely exist, the compassion of Jordanians is strong. We hope to continue to let the Jordanians touch our hearts and teach us how to better coexist and be more tolerant. One quote that I think captures this well is one we saw painted in a mural on the streets of Amman: “Alone I am fragile, together we are strong.”

 -- Tamara Anaie, Rutgers Law School, Class of 2019

To read previous posts in this blog series, see Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, and Day 5.

 

 

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