A POST FOR PEACE: Lessons from 

 Jordan

Welcome to Post for Peace Part 1: Lessons from Jordan.

 

This visual journal was originally created as part of my peacebuilding advocacy during my field experience in Jordan in 2018.

Post for Peace was created to engage everyone, even those who are not familiar with the work about peace so that everyone can see how peacebuilding can relate to our livelihood and day to day experience, and most importantly to tell how peacebuilding efforts shape the lives of those that live different realities than ours.

Scroll through to see the entries —

A POST FOR PEACE: WEEK VI

 

In one of my Sustainable Development classes my Professor, Michael Shank, told us that one of the keys to Syria conflict is something that you might not expect: water. In his article to the CNN, he explained why drought was identified as a potential conflict source in Syria but everybody failed to pay attention to this. Now, though everyone has different opinions on why the conflict started and continue to exist until today, I think a part of this argument is true.

 

 If you live in metropolitan cities, chances are you can't relate to this train of thought as you enjoy your 25 minutes shower on a daily basis. But in countries where water resources are limited and access to clean water is far from abundant, then your livelihood will be severely affected. We often undermine and overlook that tension and conflict can rise from

Water Scarcity.

Jordan is one of the countries with the most severe water scarcity problem, it comes as third next to Yemen and Libya.

Here in Jordan, in cities like Irbid water is distributed once a week.  Not only that water availability is limited for Jordanian families, but they also have to share this with Syrian refugees for the past 7 years. This situation has a serious potential to build tension an stress among refugees and as well as communities.

Water-related problems occur in refugee camps and host community. In camps like Azraq and Zaatari, refugees are highly-dependent on international organizations and the local government for their water supply. Every day organizations like UNICEF and its partners deliver 35 liters of water for each person in every district in Zaatari camp. The water is sourced from boreholes that exist inside the camp and managed by the organizations through a treatment process so that it will be safe to use.

 

According to UNHCR, at least 67.8% of refugees are consuming the water that was supplied by NGOs for their daily consumption and the remaining preferred to purchase the water from private vendors. The reason why there's 32.2% of the household that doesn't use water supplied by NGOs is mainly that they are not satisfied with the quality of the water. Approximately 95% of them reported that the water quality is perceived as poor, while other reasons include inconsistent water delivery or they have no access to these water supply. So in Jordan, not only that these refugees are limited to water availability, they barely have any option to choose

 

However, as I said water-related problems are also found outside the camp. As of Jun 2018, 83% of the refugees in Jordan live in urban setting and side by side with local Jordanians. Up to two years 3 years ago, in areas where refugees live among host communities have struggled the most from this issue. It takes an average of 80 liters of water per day to fulfill the basic need of one person, but according to Mercy Corps , areas in the north part of Jordan has suffered from water shortage that makes the daily water supply dropped to 30 liters per person. This a sensitive matter as it easily triggers dissatisfaction from host communities. 

 

what kind of water

 

they get to consume.

Not only that the Jordanian government has to ensure water access and availability to its people, but they also have to provide these to the 650 thousand Syrian refugees that they are currently hosting. In their 2017 Response Plan, the Jordanian government noted that it costs $USD 42.9 of capital to provide water services to 1 refugee, and an additional $USD 44.3 to maintain them. In short, the total direct cost that GoJ has to spend to accommodate all Syrian refugees is approximately $USD 107 million.  Makes you really think the value of water and 

 

When host communities are dissatisfied, tensions can easily emerge. Refugees can be subjected and framed as the cause of problems, making their stay among host communities feel less secure and safe. Social cohesion will automatically be disrupted as there is a lack of integration and harmony in the community. Therefore, both the government and international community had to work on a solution of this water scarcity problem.

 

 

the cost 

 

of every drip.

Meanwhile, international organizations partner with each other to improve the livelihood of vulnerable communities in Jordan. I came across some of the livelihood Working Groups in Jordan, one of them is the WASH Working Group that is chaired by UNICEF. In my personal opinion, Jordan is pretty unique cause here you can tell that there's so much to do and so many things need to be improved that there's no other way but for all the humanitarian actors to collaborate. The WASH Working Group's mission is to:  "ensure safe, equitable and sustainable access to a sufficient quantity of water; to provide safe and appropriate sanitation facilities; to minimize the risk of WASH-related diseases and to establish and maintain effective mechanisms for WASH coordination at national and sub-national levels."

 

It wasn't until I started writing this post that I really realize how significant water is and how I've taken it for granted. On average, a man's water footprint takes up to 2,200 gallons/day in the US, that's over 8,000 liters/day. I once took the test to figure out how much my water footprint is (you should try to, click here). My daily water footprint is 1,200 gallons/day and I spent on average 96 gallons of water for household use. My score is already more efficient compared to an average American, but here in Jordan, it looks like luxury as one person only gets to have 35 liters/day in Azraq Camp.

 

You and I might not be water engineers (or perhaps you are, then good for you!), and we might not be able to contribute directly to solve this problem, but we can still help in our own capacity. If you want you can donate to NGOs like World Vision that are working to directly with communities in Jordan and other water-scarce countries to solve this. But, if donating is not for you then being more mindful of your water use is one of the initiatives that you can start doing by yourself. Because at the end, you can't expect to bring changes into communities 

 

 

if you can't start making changes within yourself —

A POST FOR PEACE: WEEK V

 

If I have to pick the most important thing I can take from my experience here in Jordan, it's definitely is to finally realize what it takes to build peace, seen from a holistic perspective. Here, I finally learned that peacebuilding goes beyond mediation and conflict negotiation, it takes so much more. Sometimes conflict does not stop even if wars end, people still suffer from marginalization, displacement, poverty. 

 

In the case of refugees in Jordan, though they managed to get away from the ongoing Syrian crisis, they are still challenged by tension, stress, and inequality. It is as if they are constantly in transition moving away from

 

Negative peace.

 

"We can't eat peace", that's what Ibrahim Bangura said on his study. In an attempt to understand the Sierra Leon's peacebuilding process, Bangura specifically focused his research on the livelihood and found out that poverty, illiteracy, and marginalization have certainly increased young people's exposure towards violence. Young people are more willing to engage in conflict and do harm when their livelihood is at risk. This is nothing extraordinary, but yet sometimes it's so hard to miss. People are more likely to adopt negative coping mechanisms to deal with post-conflict situations, communities started to feel less secure, social cohesion are disrupted, and eventually, conflicts emerge. This is what we call negative peace, a situation where conflict and violence are no longer there but communities still suffer from social unrest.

Like a lot of other problem in this world, the problem here in Jordan refugee camps also revolves around money. When 657 thousand Syrian registered themselves as refugees in Jordan territory, they had to leave a lot of things behind. Most of them didn't get to bring their valuables, they're lucky if they have all their legal documents complete and not lost or ruined. Young refugees were forced to leave school, diplomas and degrees are delayed by the fault. When refugees have finally arrived and settled in camps or host communities, they need to figure out a way how to resume their lives, they are now safe but it 

 

The refugees that live in camps such as Azraq and Zaatari are heavily dependent towards humanitarian assistance, truthfully most of them don't have a lot of choices. It is very hard for refugees to generate income and cover their household expenses. Most of these refugees don't have jobs, and the odds are even smaller for  3 of every 10 households that are led by females. It's not rocket science when you don't have money to buy food for your family you'll most likely feel unhappy. Households that struggle with economic unrest are more prone to suffer from tension and stress, two biggest sources of conflict. 

doesn't mean

 

they're not vulnerable

You see, this is where holistic development plays an important role in peacebuilding.  Economic unrest is a big barrier for people to fulfill their basic needs and this where livelihood interventions are needed. Humanitarian organizations here realize that one of the ways to answer this economic challenge is to either help refugees obtain more income or help them save up their money by cutting down their expenses. In this case, neither of the options are easy. 

 

To help refugee generate stable income means to include them in the formal economy, Jordan itself is already struggling with unemployment, therefore integrating refugees into the labor market will definitely increase tension among host communities — another conflict starter. Today the regulations are slowly changing, Jordan Ministry of Labour started to allow refugees to work in factories. INGOs in the camp has also gained permission to employ Incentive-Based Volunteers programs for refugees so that they can generate extra cash and work in the facilities inside the camps. According to UNHCR , this allows refugees to earn an average of 232 JOD or around USD $320 for 1 job rotation (the rotation duration varies between 3-6 months).

However, development interventions have also been a significant component of peacebuilding. Last year, Zaatari camp has officially installed 40,100 solar panels across20 hectares of land. Today 100% of the shelters in Zaatari are connected to the grid and helps to provide 12 hours of daily electricity for each house. This significantly improves the livelihood of refugees living there,  

Instead of using the money to pay for electricity, more money can be used to provide other livelihood means from building a sanitation facility to providing daily bread for refugees. In addition, longer hours of electricity means that families can do more activities in the camp. Improvement of energy supply allows refugees to be more productive in pursuing a stabilized income, whether through providing affordable electricity for their local shop in the camp's market or simply by allowing young refugees to have extra hours to study for university placement test. 

it saves 80% of the camp's

 

annual electrecticty cost

However, development interventions have also been a significant component of peacebuilding. Last year, Zaatari camp has officially installed 40,100 solar panels across20 hectares of land. Today 100% of the shelters in Zaatari are connected to the grid and helps to provide 12 hours of daily electricity for each house. This significantly improves the livelihood of refugees living there, as it saves 80% of the annual electricity cost of the camp. Instead of using the money to pay for electricity, more money can be used to provide other livelihood means from building a sanitation facility to providing daily bread for refugees. In addition, longer hours of electricity means that families can do more activities in the camp. Improvement of energy supply allows refugees to be more productive in pursuing a stabilized income, whether through providing affordable electricity for their local shop in the camp's market or simply by allowing young refugees to have extra hours to study for university placement test. 

 

This intervention is also done in host communities. Organizations such as World Vision has started to develop pilot projects to install solar panels in the house of  Jordanians that are economically vulnerable in areas such as Irbid. For a lot of people in Jordan, electricity bills take up 84% of their monthly household expenses. They will be able to save cost up to 100% of their electricity expenses and allocate this to their children's education or buy more nutritious food for the family. By installing solar panels, the host communities also benefit from the presence of humanitarian organizations operations, hence there will be less tension between host communities and refugees over the allocation of humanitarian assistance.

 

These interventions seem utterly simple. Improving the livelihoods of people through development is a peacebuilding intervention that is often overlooked. But it certainly helps communities to be more economically resilience, avoid tension and less likely to engage in conflict. In many cities in the world, a light bulb that lights up might not mean much, 

 

But here it lights up social cohesion.

 

 

 

DONOR EDITION: IDENTITY

 

Before my trip to Jordan started, I did a fundraising that started all of this. My Post for Peace fundraising has shown me that people from different backgrounds, some I barely knew, apparently share the same hope as I do. They might come from different countries, have different identities, but they lent their hands and supported this journey. 

 

As a part of the fundraising, friends that support Post for Peace are invited to explore the concept of refugees and identity. So I invited to revisit the definition of refugees:​

 

 "A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries."

 

 

I interviewed two of the donors, Febrina Putri and Kellie Lie, and asked them to share about how they identify themselves, the importance of identity, or how it makes them feel if their identity is denied or discriminated.

Febrina is a change maker from Indonesia.

To her, the most important part of her identity is to be  a member of social group — a youth social group.

 

"Being a member of a youth group makes me feel the most connection with the energy and vision it resemblance for my future. I made an active effort to represent youth energy and power every day, in which make it really important to be identified as one. I believe being young is about mentality, not bounded by age or stigma, that define how we can live our lives to the fullest potential."

 

 

But for Kellie, identity is definitely something more than what it appears to be. Kelly is racially classified as a Chinese, but to her, nationality defines her more than anything else.  "I am Singaporean through and through, and I am proud of it. Even though many Chinese people prefer to speak of me as an "overseas Chinese" based on ancestry rather than nationality, I do not like being associated with Chinese nationals because my habits, practices, speech, and almost everything about me screams "Singaporean." Some people see me as a global citizen more than belonging to any one country, because of my nomadic lifestyle, but I always correct them to say that I am Singaporean."

 

A lot of refugees out there don't have the luxury to identify according to their original nationality, as it might affect their safety or make them vulnerable towards discrimination. The society often does not "allow" refugees to truly embrace their national identity. Inability to embrace our identity is truly injustice, and Kellie agrees.

 

"I never thought about not being allowed to identify myself as Singaporean, because it is something I do not ever want to compromise on. I love my country. I love Singapore."

 

 

Identity is something that can easily be taken for granted. Here in Jordan, I often hear people with Jordan nationality describe themselves as "Palestinian" or "Syrian". Many of them moved to Jordan years ago and I'd asked them if they'd identify as only Jordanian. They immediately said no, they'd at least identify as both but there's no way they would want to exclude their original nationality away from there. This is when you can really see that identity lies beyond border, passport, or skin tones.

So if you have the time, take a minute and think about your identity:

How would you feel when you can no longer identify

freely as you'd like to be?

A POST FOR PEACE: WEEK IV

 

Unlike Zatari, stepping into Azraq Camp is as if you're stepping into another world. Over 8,000 white roofed shelters stood in the middle of coral-colored ground. The shelters are aligned neatly, roads are long and paved, and wired fences guard the camp's outskirt. I've been talking about how it feels to visit refugee camps, but today I'd like to invite you to dig deeper. Let us go beyond the conventional thought of thinking Azraq is home to 36,000 refugees, today let us take a moment and think about what makes this home livable in the first place. From water and sanitation access all the way to geospatial hierarchies, there are a lot of planning and livelihood consideration in the making of this compound and often.  I think a lot of people overlook the fact that 

Azraq was

not built overnight

 

I remember months before I came to Jordan,  I was looking for an Airbnb apartment and remember the term "a home away from home". It is a popular term if you're a frequent Airbnb customer like myself. Based on your budget, you get to choose your ideal home away from home, 'cleanliness' and 'distance to downtown' would be the two most considered factor. But here in Jordan, refugees who live in camps like Azraq don't have any choice but to be away from their real house in Homms, Aleppo, or Damascus. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And to live in a "houses" you don't get to choose, neighbors you barely knew, it is such a great challenge to cope for anyone.

 

At the end, refugees rely on host country and international NGOs to ensure the quality of their livelihood. The quality of their survival. That's why a well-planned camp is desperately needed to make sure that even in this crisis, people can still live with dignity.

 

 

 

This is their

"home away from home"

To think that Azraq is nothing but "lively" is a popular opinion, when you enter the camp most of the roads look empty but you can see boys riding bikes every couple of miles. On the ground next to housing complex, children are playing chase and catch but the field looks beyond wide and children only look smaller in proportion to the open space. In case you're wondering, almost 60% of the camp population is children. True, Azraq population itself is only half of Zaatari's, but the reason that these roads look empty is not that it is less populated rather it's because the camp was designed to be decentralized.

 

The reason why these challenges are important to address is that when you're providing shelters for communities that have gone through traumas and conflict they will more like to face stress and emotional tension especially when they are forced to live in a compound where everything is limited.  It is no surprise if conflicts occur in communities where there's a lack of private space and distance with your neighbors. If their neighbors come from different cities in Syria, they might have different customs and culture, and this often leads to tension. I mean if I can barely stand my upstairs neighbor in East Village which I have never even seen, this seems to be very reasonable and logical, don't you think?

 

Geographical challenges are also a significant factor. For those of you who don't know yet, Jordan is one of the top three countries that face the world worst's water scarcity problem. Jordan is beyond dry and the refugee influx has certainly put a greater pressure on how the country manages and distribute its water. In refugee camps, this issue is even more serious. Although INGOs like the UN and the local government ensure that each village and district have decent access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities, but the challenges grow beyond access.

 

When you live in refugee camps, your bathroom and water tank are shared with your neighbors, usually, it's one bathroom for every 5 houses if one household has 4-6 family members, can you imagine how stressful it is to just go to the bathroom? Think about it, if you're a 12 years old girl that just got your first menstrual experience, it must be beyond unpleasant to have to go to the bathroom every couple hours just to check if what is happening with your own body.

 

It is said that when a WASH facility is shared by too many people, people will be more reluctant to care about their hygiene and sanitation. This is deeply problematic, if a child is too shy to go to the public bathroom to wash their hands, then he is prone to diseases. If he shares housewares with his brother or sisters, an outbreak can easily spread among family member and soon enough spread to the whole neighborhood, or worse to the whole camp.

 

However, in camps like Azraq, these challenges are addressed. In the development of Azraq, spatial hierarchy aspect is considered. If this is your first encounter with the term "spatial hierarchy", to put it short it is the interrelation of spaces such as public spaces and private spaces. This aspect matters because when humans live in a house, they don't only live there as a living being, but also a cultural being. The dynamic of culture and identity interrelates on how human beings live their daily lives, therefore when the density of housing complex are too crowded and filled with too many houses, it affects the security and comfort of the people living in each house. If for example, the cultural habit of one household is the exact opposite with its neighbor and that they don't have any private space then, this will be reflected on how these different neighbors interact with each other in the public space they share. Therefore in Azraq, the tents are built with proper distance from each other — making sure that no tents are too closed to each other, but also close enough to 

 

 

build a sense 

of community

 

 

In Azraq, the camp layout is divided into 6 villages. In each village, water taps are shared with less people compared to the ones in Zaatari. This resulted in an improvement of hygiene and sanitation behavior from the people that lives there. It is said that in villages where refugees don't have to share with too many people, they'll likely to clean their WASH facilities.

 

This behavioral shift is possible because now they probably have better sense of belonging to these facilities. If you're interested to read the whole research about this, two Harvard graduate did a great job in explaining this.  

 

 

In addition, a properly-designed camp like Azraq also ensures the efficiency in distributing aid from winter clothes to food. In camps like Zaatari, when the rainy season comes, flood disrupts the livelihood of the camp. Trucks delivering healthy food for children in schools often get stuck because of the flood that blocks the road. Even on summer days,  the trucks have to go through small roads that are far from smooth and often time the delivery is slow to avoid ruining the quality of the food being delivered. The aspect of food security is not only what kind of food you're providing the refugees with or how much do they get in a day, but also how to ensure that this food can be efficiently delivered and easy to access. For example, in Zaatari if you live near the border of the camp, sometimes it means you are far located from the market. In a female-led household, this means the mother will have to allocate more time to buy the ingredients and to prepare their children's dinner. Eventually, this could lead to emotional hardships and stress.  However in camps with a structured layout like Azraq, food distribution facilities are strategically located. So in short, there wouldn't be anyone from the household that has to walk too far to buy food or get their food aid. 

 

 

In short, I hope everyone realizes that although refugee camps are meant to be a temporary settlement, it doesn't mean that it is not well-thought of. Hundreds of people from different background have put a lot of thoughts into this, it doesn't only take government and international organizations, it involves a lot of people from architects, engineers, to sociologists. Today, although Azraq is well designed, it doesn't mean that it is more comfortable for refugees to settle. A lot of people would argue that it still far from "dignified" and "humanized", and be frank? It is. The number of things that needed to be improved are countless, and not to mention you also need to think about the camp's relationship with the host community. If camps like Azraq were improved to its optimum potential, how will it affect the opinions of neighboring host community? Will it make them jealous? Will they revolt? It will definitely worsen the social cohesion dynamic between local Jordanians and Syrian refugees. There really isn't any ideal situation. 

 

 

 

 

There really isn't any ideal situation —

 

 

Well there is, but it will involve Syria and a plan of rebuilding it. But in the meantime, everyone needs to come together and contribute in solving one of the world's biggest humanitarian challenge here in the lands of Jordan.

A POST FOR PEACE: WEEK III

 

This week, I had the chance to pay a quick visit to Zaatari. A camp of 5 square kilometers and a home for 78 thousand Syrian refugees. The camp was first opened in 2012 and over 460 thousand Syrian has set their foot at leaset once in this camp. My visit was fairly short but it certainly made

 

one lasting impression.

 

The camp itself is anything but dull, it's amazing to see how "lively" it is despite the fact that it is only miles away from one of the world's worst chaos. Today the families live in shelters made of prefabricated materials, humanitarian agencies have successfully found funding to replace tents with shelters that are considered more humane and dignified. The shelters are still very modest though, but it's sufficient enough to host an entire family.

 

The camp is divided into 12 districts with roads that are anything but smooth when it rains it gets muddy and it is so often for aid trucks and people to get stuck while they're making their way. I was asking a colleague, how did they decide which family gets to live in which district? "They don't, when they first came they were given tents and they just pick a spot where they wanted to build their tents."

 

Today if they want to travel from one district to another, they have to walk or if you're a guy you get to use bikes. Women, however, have no choice but to walk or perhaps wait for a truck that acts like a local public transport on the weekend to take them around.

 

There are around 80 newborns per week or up to 300 babies born per month in the camp. The camp has hospitals and clinics, but it doesn't make it any easier. As I was going around the camp, I would pass by some 7 years old boys and then my colleague would say "He's probably was born here in the camp" and then I realized how it has been 8 years that this crisis remains unresolved.

 

As I said, the camp is lively in its own way. The Syrian refugees were able to build businesses in the camp such as a small convenience store, electronic shop, and to my surprise: bridal shop. Yes, when you live for 8 years in the middle of chaos, that is probably one of the best efforts for you to get your life closer to normal. For most people, this sounds like positive outlook: the fact that Zaatari has turn into a city of its own. But truthfully, no, they are still so far from living a decent life, a decent life would be for them to have the chance to return to their own home. It is definitely not a celebration, 

 

It is merely

 

sufficient

In the camp, life is a gazillion time more difficult than you can imagine. One simply can't get in and out of the gate as he please, each time he wants to travel outside he has to request a permit for that. If a man would like to sign up to be an Incentive-Based Volunteer for one of the NGOs there, he has to go through a fit and proper screening including health examination that requires him to visit a doctor outside and hence he has to make another permit. If an NGO wishes to distribute healthy meal to children in schools that contains an apple or banana, then each apple has to go through a screening that eventually also would require each apple to have its individual "permit".

 

 

 

On one side, people would think that it is beyond complicated and restrictive for refugees. However, no one has given a lot of thoughts on how much responsibilities that humanitarian actor has to take. Caring 24/7 for the livelihood of the people you probably didn't know in the first place. Isn't that a remarkable thing?

 

 

 

To care for strangers,

bonded by nothing but humanity?

 

 

 

If you ever wonder how one can visit a refugee camp, first and foremost let's have some real conversation here. If you ever have any intention to visit the camp, please make sure that the reason for your visit is because you want to contribute in improving the livelihood of the refugees there. If you're planning to go simply because you are curious, please humor your curiosity by Googling, it is their lives you're trying to have a glimpse at, a lot of visitors get to come to the camp and leave after hours of visiting the facilities and the families, but then they'll return to their normal lives right after. Meanwhile, these families have to stay there with future undecided and fate uncertain.

 

The reason behind this harsh sentiment is simply because prior to my visit I had to learn the whole process of visiting refugee camps in Jordan. It is certainly possible but you'd have to get a permission from the Jordan Ministry of Interior, stating your purpose of visit, dates, and length.  The permit usually takes around 2-3 weeks to process, so you definitely need to plan ahead. But another fact that I learned is that during the past couple of years, there was a lot of tourists that visited Jordan for leisure but wanted to make a quick stop and look at the refugee camps as well. Be it their humanitarian calling, or candid curiosity, they managed to visit camps like Zaatari which is only 1ike 1.5 hours away from Amman. Not sure how they got their permit or how they reached the camps, but they visited the camp like it's some attraction and started asking if they can take pictures or selfies with the refugees.

 

I can't emphasize enough how I'm deeply disappointed by this. It is very undignified for refugees to be objectified in such a careless way. How do you think it feels for them when you have lived a life full of trauma, an exhausting journey of migration, and not to mention a future yet undecided, and have your picture taken on some tourist's selfie.

 

How are you supposed to simplified all that scars and stories into one picture?

 

 

 

A POST FOR PEACE: WEEK II

 

In my second week in Jordan, I finally learned about both the tough and humbling reality of this country.

The warm desert hues look like a mile long of rose marble from afar, fascinating and gigantic at the same time. As I traveled to the outskirts of Amman for my work and to Petra for the weekend, I came to realize how the landscape of this country is capable of making that particular effect on you, one that makes you

feel small.

The 96 thousand square kilometers terrain that falls under Jordan territory might look exquisitely pretty but it also reflects a poorly planned urbanization. Last week, I was going to the north part of Amman with Nawab, a colleague who oversees a project on food distribution for poor host communities.  It was a 30 minutes ride by car, 3 hours by foot, or in short: 16 km in total.

As there was no option for a bus or any kind of public transport on my Google Map, I asked Nawab "So what happens when we don't have a car here?

 

I asked my driver Nidal the same question when I visited Petra over the weekend. Along the way through our 3 hours journey, we've passed 3 men and 1 woman who stood by the road, trying to catch a local bus or perhaps testing their luck on hitchhiking. As I repeated my question, Nidal simply answered: "Not everyone has a car, but every family has donkeys or camels."  Of course, he had said this to humor me. But truthfully, that's all I've been thinking all weekend: how the mobility of people is truly constrained by distance and money here.

 

I mean, if it's hard enough for average low-income Jordanian to travel by themselves, can you imagine being a refugee living among host communities? Refugees who live in urban settings tend to have higher expenditure compared to the ones living in camps, especially due to the fact that 60% of their income to cover up for their rent. To dream about having their own car, I assume, would be too wild to think about now. 

 

Saddest part? We haven't even factored in the gender context. I can't even imagine how limited it would be for female Syrian refugees to travel as simple as to look for work. Not to mention at least 24% of the household in Syrian refugee communities are headed by women. As a daughter of a single mother, I can't even begin how I wanted to tell these women that their struggles are not unnoticed and definitely won't be neglected, at least not by me.

 

 

 

na

The more I think about it, the quest to answer the humanitarian need seems to be an endless one. If it wasn't for my Non-Disclosure Agreement, I would've told you the gazillion things that the humanitarian communities here are trying to do.

 

As this is my first field experience, I can only speak for what I'm seeing here in Jordan, that everyone here is

 

 

 

t

 

 

 

 

Whether you wear a UN badge, a World Vision's jacket, a royal family pin, or basically just an average local student, everyone here truly believes on the vision of helping out those in need, in all aspects.

 

Sure there's that harsh reality of limited funding from donors, but the fact that all of these different stakeholders are willing to collaborate to serve a bigger purpose is truly beyond me.

 

Unified by the

same purpose

But if you could've seen how they're willing to set aside (most) of their egos, to open doors for innovative programs that will truly benefit the communities and not just those who designed it, you too will be as surprised as I am. Don't get me wrong, they are still fighting for their program's continuity, but it is definitely a whole new realm of dedication to hummanity. I'm honestly impressed and worried at the same time:

Impressed by their restlessness

to help each other,

and worried that the world's best and brightest humanitarian crew will eventually burn out due to exhaustion.

 

 

Prior to my departure, everyone that I talked to has advised me a thing or two about the Middle East, one friend told me that it's not the friendliest place for females, while the others told me the people are nice beyond compare. After a quick stroll around the city, having my first day at the office, I can only say that my first week in Jordan has been anything but I expected. To say that Amman is beautiful is simply

 

 

an understatement.

A POST FOR PEACE: WEEK I

Some corners look like they never left its Romanian days and in between tiny alleys you'll find homes that look plain and modest on the outside, but filled with chandeliers in the inside — at least from what I saw from their windows. For those of you who wonder, Amman is safe. I have walked around the city by myself and have been treated wonderfully by the locals.

 

 

Now that I'm finally here, I can finally let you know which organization that I'll be working with. The organization is World Vision, a non-profit humanitarian organization with a focus on children and their wellbeing. 

 

The organization works across sectors from education to renewable energy, all with a purpose of ensuring a child can achieve a bright future despite their challenge living as a refugee in a foreign country, and most importantly despite their traumatic post-conflict experience

 

I'll be unwrapping more details about the projects in the following posts, but for now, I'd like to share with you something that I just realized.

 

A lot of people come to Jordan and other countries looking for ways to help refugees in need, including myself. Our mission is a humanitarian one, and just like any other young peacebuilders out there. I am too excited about the adventure. But one element that I just realized is that:

 

 

Our presence here

is momentary

 

My time here, my interaction, my words, will briefly touch the lives of some of the refugee children living here. I'll be able to take this experience for once in a lifetime lesson, but for these children, these interactions will have implication on how they move forward with their future.

 

 

I did not realize that before I was briefed by World Vision about their strict Child Protection Policy. I'm not allowed to do physical contact with the children on the field, at most all I can do is pat them on the shoulder. No hugging, no cradling, not soever.

 

There's a lot of reason behind this, but the most important one is children living in a post-conflict and conflict situation will most likely to have daily encounter with humanitarian workers, and once we overly show our affection and sympathy it means we're opening doors to interfere with their lives and personality. They could definitely develop separation anxiety, dependency towards humanitarian workers, or they could simply get upset when the humanitarian worker has to leave and transfer.

 

So all of those pictures you've seen with humanitarian workers or donors or philanthropist getting too cuddly with the people they're trying to help with, can you imagine how many children lives have been impacted by that? To make my point short:

 

Our time here is like a ripple in their lives —

 

In my first week here, I finally learn the real meaning of truly respecting the lives of the subject you're trying to help. To understand that all intervention should definitely put their dignity first, and at the end, they are the ones that have to carry on with their lives — not ours.