Anne Marie McCarthy, Plan International Ireland’s Emergencies’ Programme Manager reports live from Jordan.
The sad passing of Glen Campbell this week made me listen to some of his songs. Glen Campbell’s songs are among the soundtrack of my youth, and Sunday spins. A good friend of mine prefers the Joni Mitchell version of Both Sides Now (she did write it after all) but for me the Glen Campbell version is definitive: “I’ve looked at life from both sides now”. Visiting Plan Jordan this week I am reminded of these two sides of things and how we make binary divisions in life: haves/have nots, boy/girl, man/woman, refugee/host community. The Jordanian government calculates that Jordan is hosting 1.5million refugees and this number has stayed stable since the borders were closed with Syria in 2014. Plan Jordan works with refugees who are in camps but also those in host communities. I visited one early learning centre in the Governorate of Mafraq, in the north of the country, where Plan is supporting kids aged between 3 and 5, many of them born in Jordan of Syrian parents. Their parents and other parents in the community had also participated in parenting classes. One little boy called Ahmed who is 5, had been refused entry to two other centres because he has a disability but this centre welcomed him, reflecting our aim to be inclusive of all children. The kids do educational activities, appropriate for their age, as below.
With the support of Irish Aid, Plan Jordan is also working with out of school youth and school drop outs in accelerated learning programmes in the suburbs of Amman. Young women, generally aged between 15 and 18, enrolled in the centre, presented testimonials about them entering the centre not being able to read or write and now they can, and how empowering this is for them.
I also visited Azraq camp, which is home to approximately 35,000 Syrian refugees. Azraq seems far from everything and while many services are being provided, livelihood opportunities are very limited. An assessment carried out by Plan Jordan also indicated that there are huge unmet psychosocial support needs. No one knows how long they will be there and if and when they can go home. Life in the camp has its restrictions – limitation on movement of people, but also, they can’t grow anything because of limited water supply and they are dependent on others for most things. But, life in Jordan is expensive, and most people can’t afford to live outside the camp.
So much has been written about the Syrian crisis, its origins and impacts on the region, but when you break it down to the individual level, you can see the millions of individual tragedies brought about by this crisis. Plan International aims to give support and hope to these children and their families, through providing educational opportunities, a safe space for children to grow and develop but also some livelihood opportunities through hiring Syrians in the camp and giving youth opportunities to enter the job market. Ultimately we are aiming to reduce divisions among people and encourage integration so that the future will be better for every child in Jordan.