Youth and refugee work Jordanian-style
Vamos employees learned valuable lessons about youth and refugee work during an Erasmus+ visit to Jordan, where the number of refugees adds up to nearly a third of the population. Equal opportunities to participate, learn and prosper benefit everyone.
A fourteen-year-old refugee youth hunches over her screen, excitedly pointing at her work. Turning to us, she explains that for the last four days she has been working on a chatbot answering people’s questions about Covid-19. The bot is now ready, and the next step is to translate it into English.
A child genius? Perhaps, but more importantly a young Palestinian refugee visiting an activity centre in Irbid, Northern Jordan, run by the Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD). The centre is called Innovation Lab and provides a space for refugee youths to explore and learn about technology and arts, getting guidance and using equipment they might not have access to anywhere else.
Equal opportunities for all
A group of Vamos employees are visiting JOHUD as part of an Erasmus+ project called Innovative Youth Work 2.0. The aim of the project is to learn from each other in order to develop the youth services of the participating organisations through mutual learning and sharing best practices.
During our stay in Jordan, we also get an opportunity to visit Jordan Start, a leading business accelerator in the country only a few kilometres away from JOHUD’s Innovation Lab in Irbid. An employee picks up a prototype of a robotic hand designed for children wounded in war and explains that with Jordan Start anyone with a brilliant but realistic idea aimed at solving societal problems can get the equipment, technical support and tutoring about marketing and financial issues to carry out their idea as well as starting to sell it. Special accelerator programmes funded by the European Union and UNICEF, for example, are aimed at youths and refugees to ensure equal opportunities for those with lesser means.
A country of refugees
Walking around the corridors of Jordan Start, I wonder whether the bright fourteen-year-old refugee girl we met earlier will end up here one day and produce something wonderful for her community. Jordan has a population of over ten million people, a huge portion of whom are refugees. The country provides stability in a region known for its many conflicts and has become home for about 2.9 million foreigners, whose statuses range from refugee to asylum seeker and undocumented immigrant. From the Finnish perspective, this high percentage of refugees and other immigrants is almost unfathomable.
During a week-long visit, we can only see a glimpse of what is real. There will be many different stories and sad realities. There will probably also be negative attitudes towards refugees, just like anywhere in the world. Yet, I cannot stop thinking about the girl we met and about how she and people like her are seen by JOHUD, other organisations and the businesses we visited as an important contributor to Jordan’s future and therefore deserve the same tools, equipment and guidance as anybody else to carry out their bright ideas and dreams.
This is the one lesson I would like to take back to Finland, to spread and strengthen throughout Finnish media, institutions as well as public and private discourses: an attitude that sees refugee youths as valuable contributors to our shared future rather than a burden on society!
Writer is Aino Bain who works as Project Manager in Innovative Youth Work 2.0.Read more about Erasmus+