I have had a number of very informative (and fun) interactions over the last week and a half that have taught me a great deal about what kinds of organizations are active in Jordan (especially those that serve children and youth), what they are doing, and how they fit into the bigger picture.
I am still working on putting together that larger picture, because a lot of services that are provided by the state or by private industry in the United States are provided by NGOs in Jordan. And there are some grey areas, Commissions, for example, that were begun by royal decree but are not funded by the state.
If you have been reading some of the other blogs, you have read about The Jordan River Foundation. We visited their Queen Rania Family and Children Center last week. That is a good example of a royal initiative that is now supported by grants and donations. They have really great programming for children and families which is geared toward child abuse prevention. The Jordan River Foundation has two main foci: one is community empowerment (this includes income-generating initiatives among other things), and child protection. They have a shelter for children that houses 32. We did not tour that, but we heard about it, and it sounds wonderful.
We also visited Questscope and met with their director, Curtis Rhodes, who is a UW Madison alum. He has a very inspiring life story. Once a university professor, he was Dean at the American University in Beirut during the civil war, and realized he needed to be more useful to society. He began Questscope, which specifically targets street children. They have a whole range of programs, most of which are about providing education and empowering young people who live on the streets.
This week I went to dinner at the home of a friend I met (long story), who introduced me to her friend who is a Child Protection worker for Save the Children. They work exclusively with Iraqi children. Their mandate is giant in scope, including health care, education, housing, civic engagement, self-expression, reduction of discrimination, gender equality, and much more. I am meeting with her in her offices later this week, and she will arrange for me to go to the field.
Then today I went to Ruwwad, which is in Jebal Nadith. This is a very impoverished part of east Amman. It is really an “unofficial” Palestinian refugee camp. Ruwwad is doing so many incredible things – all about youth empowerment and civic engagement – that it is hard to know where to begin. I have an appointment to return on Tuesday, when the director has offered to take me and those I bring with me to her house and cook us lunch!
This is the hospitality of Jordan. Oops, it is Arabic study hour – more soon.