Refugee accompaniment and support in Jordan
Canadian Jesuits International supports the work of Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) in Jordan. During 2012 and continuing into 2013, JRS expanded its programs in Jordan considerably to meet the urgent needs of Syrians flowing across the border. By mid-2013, there were nearly half a million Syrian refugees in Jordan, more than 75% women and children.
JRS was established in Jordan in 2008 to reach out to refugees fleeing the war in Iraq. For four years the JRS program was geared towards meeting the needs of the Iraqi community in Amman, largely through informal education and home visits.
With the conflict in Syria, JRS has had to adapt to the new needs of a different refugee community, starting to offer emergency aid and setting up programs in the north of Jordan. In addition to the Iraqi and Syrian communities, there is a large group of Somali and Sudanese refugees in Jordan, whose needs remain mostly unmet by others.
JRS Jordan reaches out to refugees struggling to survive in urban settings – as opposed to refugee camps. A team of men and women from Iraq, Syria and Sudan regularly visits families in Amman and the north of Jordan: so far in 2013, the team has visited 1,700 families. Through such visits, JRS is able to determine the needs of the family, and to respond with emergency aid like mattresses, medicine, household items, clothes, rent assistance and other basic items. Prior to the Syrian conflict, JRS Jordan had not been engaged in emergency assistance, but owing to the conditions of Syrian refugees in Jordan, it was necessary to develop this kind of response. The family visits in the north were developed in response to the high number of Syrians now concentrated in and around three towns – Irbid, Mafraq and Ramtha. A kindergarten will soon be opened for Syrian children from these areas.
In Amman, an informal education project in Ashrafiyeh, which has been operational since 2008, saw its student numbers swell from around 400 to 800. Students are a mix of Sudanese, Somali, Syrian, Jordanian-Palestinian and Iraqi, aged from three to 80 years old. There is a kindergarten as well as a life-skills class, which was established specifically for Syrian women. A literacy class was opened for women of all nationalities who are illiterate in Arabic and English. The school has two sessions daily, four times a week, with classes focusing on English language and computer skills, from basic to more skilled programs.
The most important aspect of the school is that it is a place where people are able to rebuild community ties with one another. Since the beginning of 2013, we have seen a greater level of integration between the Sudanese, Somali, Iraqi and Syrian communities, who are sharing their experiences and slowly rebuilding their lives together.
Another program in Jordan is the JCHEM: Jesuit Commons – Education at the Margins. JCHEM is a program implemented in partnership with Jesuit universities in the US and elsewhere that brings higher education to refugees through an online learning platform with on-site tutors. Refugees may apply either for a three-year diploma in liberal studies, awarded by Regis University in the US, or for shorter community service learning tracks (CSLT). JCHEM started in Amman in 2012.