Impressions from Visiting Anera’s Projects in Jerash, Jordan

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Dr. Omar Zalatimo is a member of Anera’s board. He and his wife Haneen live in Maryland. During the summer of 2023 they visited Jordan and spent a day with Anera staff there. This is his account of their visit.

Haneen and I had the wonderful opportunity to visit some of Anera’s active programs on the ground in Jordan. On a Monday, we traveled one hour north of the capital city of Amman to the historic city of Jerash. Jerash is known for its ancient Greco-Roman ruins and is one of the largest tourist attractions in Jordan. Our trip to Jerash involved visiting three sites.

Skylar Lawrence, Haneen & Omar Zalatimo, and Saddam Sayyaleh in Jordan
Haneen and I (center) with Skylar Lawrence (left) and Saddam Sayyaleh (right) during our visit to Anera’s projects in the Jerash camp of Jordan. Skylar and Saddam are Anera staffers who traveled with us.

Our first stop was to Anera’s employment booster program – a collaboration between Anera and I Learn, under the patronage of the minister of the digital economy and entrepreneurship H.E Dr Ahmad Hanandah. This program offers training to young professionals in the skills employers are seeking, as well as in job search techniques and interview preparation. They also help place graduates of the program into internships where most continue into full employment. When asked what they liked most about the course, these are some of the comments we heard from two of the attendees:

“I’ve learned how to make a professional CV and LinkedIn profile and I learned how to use project management tools that will help me find an opportunity in the future.”

– Saja

“I have co-founded initiatives and small home-based businesses, but all of them failed. Now, after taking the training, I understand what mistakes I made and now, if I start a small business, I understand what to do and how to avoid these mistakes. I also now know how to use digital tools to manage and monitor my work.”

– Aida
View of the Jerash Palestinian refugee camp from the roof of JMAP
View of the Jerash Palestinian refugee camp from the roof of JMAP

Jerash refugee camp, also known as the Gaza camp, originated as a temporary camp in 1968 when displaced Palestinians escaped Palestine because of the 1967 war. It started with 11,500 refugees and has grown to 31,000. It is the poorest of the 10 official Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan. One special circumstance of the Gaza camp is that the refugees were not afforded a Jordanian national ID. A national ID is essential in Jordan to participate in society – for jobs, healthcare, land and stock ownership, etc. Without those opportunities, the refugees of Gaza camp are severely limited.

We visited with Amal Tashtoush, manager of the Jordan Medical Aid for Palestinians (JMAP) clinic. Amal explained to us the challenges the residents of the camps face, from a higher rate of acute and chronic diseases. Anera has been supporting JMAP with medicines to treat those conditions. And, Anera recently installed a much-needed elevator in the clinic.

Souf refugee camp is also situated in Jerash, and while it fares better than the Gaza camp, the difference isn’t big. Here we visited the Thaki program. This is an after-school program that uses donated computers, of which there are only 13, and an advanced software educational platform to assist and advance students’ education and skills. The students range in age from 11 to 15. They come from the camp and a nearby orphanage. It was striking to see the students using their free time when their friends were playing or working, to improve their education to advance their lives as well as the lives of their families and community. Students had dreams of becoming doctors, nurses or engineers. A limiting factor was the number of computers that are available. One of our goals was to help to find support for the donation of more computers so that more kids can join the program.

At the end of our visit, we had time to reflect on what had only been a brief glimpse into the situation at these camps in Jordan. It is hard to conceptualize what life would be like in one of the camps, with such limited resources and, unfortunately, limited hope. However, above all else, what stood out was the welcoming nature of the camp residents. Despite their circumstances, their warmth and hospitality radiated from their smiles. Witnessing the motivation, drive, and perseverance of people who respect themselves and push themselves to better their situation was a truly humbling experience. What was also striking is seeing how efficiently Anera has leveraged its limited resources to create deep and lasting impact in its projects.

We are proud to be part of Anera, an organization that works to make avenues of progress more attainable to the wonderful people living in Jordan’s camps, as well as in Palestine’s and Lebanon’s.



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