As the summer heats up in Jordan, the UNESCO Amman office is abuzz with activity. My work has ramped up over the last month, spanning across several programs in the education sector. And while August is generally the month when the globe goes on vacation, UNESCO Amman has a number of exciting events and projects coming up.
Discovering a New City
Since my last post, Jordan celebrated the end of Ramadan in late June. The holiday of Eid Al Fitr marks the conclusion of the month of fasting, and many who observe Ramadan gather with family and friends to feast, worship, and enjoy a few days off of work. While several of my friends and colleagues left Amman for a short holiday, I celebrated Eid with my roommate and friends by hosting a small feast on our rooftop.
Over the last two months, Amman has quickly felt like home. In June and July, I hiked through mountains and mineral springs with friends, floated in the Dead Sea, and explored Amman’s many ancient and cultural sites. At the end of July, the city held a multi-day music festival and held nightly concerts in the two ancient Roman stadiums in downtown Amman. I live in a neighborhood called Weibdeh, which is known for its arts scene and unique shops, cafes, and restaurants. Weibdeh is also marked by its impressive displays of street art across the neighborhood.
Since I am fortunate to stay in Jordan as a Boren Fellow after my time with UNESCO Amman, I wanted to find a local organization to volunteer with that supported refugees and vulnerable Jordanians. I recently began volunteering as a girl scout leader with Collateral Repair Project (CRP). This organization in East Amman supports the large, diverse population of refugees in the city through its programs in education, crafts and entrepreneurship, psychosocial support, food distribution, and access to social services. Each week, the girl scout manager (who is also a former CRP participant), my friend, and I play with a group of sweet and energetic Syrian and Sudanese refugee girls ages 4-11. We play games and sports, make colorful arts and crafts projects, and end our time with a lunch together. One of our scouts is visually impaired, so we play many games that involve dancing, music, and movement to engage everyone in the group. Check out all the programs, stories, and videos on CRP’s website and their Facebook page!
Summer of New Opportunities, New Developments, and New Graduates
UNESCO Amman is in the midst of a busy season of mobilizing new resources for projects for the upcoming year. One of the first things I learned during my fellowship was about the various sources of funding that support the office. As a United Nations agency, UNESCO receives funding from its contributing Member States, which supports programming and operations across the offices and the headquarters in Paris. Additionally, many offices like UNESCO Amman seek funding from international donors to carry out projects. Many of our major projects—a technical vocational education scholarship project, a teacher training project, our work on the education management information system, and several others—are supported by donors like the Government of Korea, the Saudi Fund for Development, and the European Union. While I have supported new business development in previous positions, I have written, budgeted, and revised more proposals in the last two months than in my six years of working in global health development! This gives me a unique vantage point to understand the skills and expertise of our office and shape our trajectory and areas of growth for the future.
This week, UNESCO Amman launched a website connecting refugee and vulnerable Jordanian youth to higher education and training opportunities called Jami3ti (my university in Arabic). While younger students have access to basic education, there are very few opportunities for post-secondary education and skills training for youth-aged refugees (age 18-35). In fact, less than one percent of Syrian refugees in this age group in Jordan have received financial support to pursue higher education and technical vocational education and training (TVET). Jami3ti contributes to bridging that gap by connecting refugee youth to scholarship and learning opportunity providers. The Jami3ti team published the website’s first opportunity provided by Kiron (a higher education NGO for refugees) for online bachelor-level courses. Future opportunities will include scholarships for full bachelors and masters degrees, online skills courses, certificate programs, and many others. This week, the team also sent 1,400 text messages to refugee and vulnerable Jordanian youth to announce the Kiron opportunity and encourage them to check the website for future opportunities.
In addition to sharing opportunities on Jami3ti, UNESCO Amman also provides scholarships to refugee and Jordanian students. One such project partners with Al Quds College, a community college offering two-year vocational programs, to provide support for 175 Syrian refugees and 75 vulnerable Jordanians. This project supported these students to pursue post-secondary education in a technical field, and it celebrated the graduates’ accomplishments in July.
August will continue to be a busy month! This week, we are wrapping up a three-day workshop with the Ministry of Education to set priorities for a five-year sector-wide strategic plan. Next week, I am excited to attend a conference on information and communication technology in education for refugees. In addition to wrapping up work with proposal development, I will help coordinate another multi-day workshop on setting goals for the Ministry of Education’s national strategic plan.