“When I recognized strangers as friends in Amman”

Humbleness, respect and joy…three strong emotions I’m still absorbing after a visit today to a War Child-supported community-based organisation, Sanabel Al Khair.

Engaging children and parents. Photo by War Child Jordan.

War Child protects, educates and advocates for the rights of children affected by war. The IKEA Foundation is supporting War Child to help ensure more sustainable programmes for children like those living in Jordan’s capital city of Amman.  You won’t find them in prestigious and upscale West Amman but you will see and feel the need in East Amman. The city landscape changes as you travel from one side to the other, and so do the needs.

Something can be done about it. Photo by Dominik Kielban.

Today we, IKEA IWitnesses from Poland, had a glimpse of what happens when a country is obligated by its humanity to take care of its neighbours in crisis. A country, Jordan, that has challenges of its own, is moving forward and supporting others. Numbers tell you one thing…numbers…estimates… some 654,582 registered Syrian refugees in Jordan…It doesn’t tell you much but the people and their faces tell you much more.

Within Jordanian borders, I have to grasp that taking into account unregistered displaced people as well, nearly one out of every 10 faces I see has been removed from their homes by forces out of their control. They are no different from you and me—except they were forced to leave their living room, their kitchen, garden, school, workplace, their coffee shop, park, friends, grocery store, car, bed…their home, behind.  War forced them to leave and some couldn’t even leave with their families intact, because death came knocking too soon.

Children watching a play on personal hygiene, helped by older student graduates of War Child programmes. Photo by War Child Jordan.

Now, in the Al-Hashmi Alshamali neighbourhood in East Amman, theTime To Be a Child’ project by War Child is supporting efforts to get dignity and hope back to a damaged group of people, one person at a time. It is empowering them to reach out to others and to spread harmony rather than discord.

Today, at Sanabel Al Khair, I met people I already recognized; I know them from my life in Canada and in Poland. My childhood best friend, my favourite aunty, my neighbour, my sons, my daughter, my colleague and more. I saw a version of all these people who I love so dearly, here today in Amman, Jordan.

Some of the team working at Sanabel Al Khair. The beautiful and warm entrance to the building. Photo by War Child Jordan.

Immediately my heart warmed and I wanted to reach out to my ‘best friend’. In this place, she’s called Maya. She’s 26 years old and, with other community workers, helps to raise awareness about child marriage. “Simply we want to preserve the girls’ childhood.”

Marriage from a young age is one of the child protection concerns mentioned and that’s why awareness of concerns and dangers, education and alternatives are key. What other ways are there to solve family problems that would require a girl to marry before she is mature enough both physically and emotionally to do so? My best friend is helping these girls to be girls and empowering them for a better future without early marriage.

Mothers talking about parenting and finding better ways. Photo by War Child Jordan.

Later, I giggled with my ‘neighbour’ Liliane. Actually, she’s one of the moms seeking support among a group of women who gather once a week at this community-based organisation to talk about yesterday, and life’s basic things, with a counsellor and each other.

How do I keep my siblings from fighting? How do I discipline my teenager without hitting? What do I tell my children when…? Here sat a lovely, open and engaging group of women from Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Palestine. They didn’t know each other before this time. This Jordanian had never met a Syrian or a Palestinian or an Iraqi. They were all foreign to each other. They were not the same yet they have discovered that they are all very similar and, although they have cultural differences, they too could find harmony and friendship in one another and a common bond; their family and life with its joys and hardships. These ladies—wives, moms, sisters, aunties—were open to us and even wanted our thoughts and opinions on how we raise our own children.   Liliane also spoke English, we laughed together, I wished we had more time. There is so much more…

Little boy is learning how to smile and trust again. Photo by War Child Jordan.
    Paula Dewar