Study hard, work hard and play hard are all aspects the CET Intensive Language and Internship program in Jordan offer. After a week of intensive Jordanian dialect classes, we were eased into starting Modern Standard Arabic along with starting our internships. Months before getting to Jordan I was asked to give a detailed description of the type of work I would like to do at my ideal internship placement. This information along with my resume was used by the CET Jordan staff to compile a list of about 10 civil society organizations and NGOs that fit my interests and will allow me the opportunity to serve the organization’s needs along with growing professionally. You are sent that list about two weeks before the start of the program, and you are asked to rank your preferences on a scale of 1 to 10. After a few days into the program I was happy to find out that I was placed with my No. 1 choice, which was to intern at the Near East Foundation.
CET’s got my back. I remember the first day of my internship. My classmate and now co-worker Mal and I were told to be ready to meet Mazan, the resident director, and Tom, the resident assistant director by 8:30 a.m. in front of our apartment building to head out for our first day. We all crowded into a car together to drive across town to Al-Weibda where the Near East Foundation Amman branch is located. Listening to Arabic music and chatting about what we want to get out of our experience with the organization, I almost felt like a kid again being driven my mom to my first day of school. It was a nice and comforting feeling. Upon our arrival we had a meeting with the director of the organization to discuss NEF’s current projects, what their needs are and what we would like to get out of our six weeks working with them. Mazen transformed from a parental-esque figure to our attorney as he negotiated terms about our internship. Again I felt comforted every step of the way because CET was there to make sure we were happy with our experience.
Mal and I attending our first staff meeting completely in Arabic. The staff was brainstorming the most effect times during Ramadan to conduct follow up visits to the homes of new business owners thanks to NEF’s project in Zarqa.
Mal and I standing outside the Youth Association for Self-Development, which is a local community organization that works with NEF on the Reducing Vulnerability of Iraqi Refugees, Jordanians and Vulnerable Groups in Zarqa project.
The Near East Foundation recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, distinguishing it as the longest running nonprofit humanitarian assistance and development organization in the Middle East and North Africa. I feel honored to have the opportunity of working in one of the organization’s largest branches. Currently we are wrapping up two yearlong projects tackling two important issues through developmentally sustainable methods. One project aims to reduced economic vulnerability for Iraqi and Syrian refugees and Jordanians in the Zaqra governorate by providing business training for small home-based business startups along with grants to help participants get started. Additionally, we are working on a project to raise awareness about gender inequality and to promote women’s rights in the Tafilah governorate through a series of youth network workshops, trainings on the issue and nation-wide conferences to engaged the community and lawmakers to evoke policy change.
Ramadan and the workplace
The staff at NEF have been fantastic and have welcomed us with open arms. Despite the fact that many of them are fasting, they tend to go out of their way to ensure that Mal and I are comfortable and have full bellies at all times. Since I am responsible for documenting success stories of individuals who participant and benefit from our projects, I have the opportunity to go with the field staff to our different project sites. While on the three-hour drive to the governorate of Tafilah for meetings and interviews with project participants, my co-workers constantly reminded me that I should feel comfortable eating and drinking while on the trip. They were so adamant about this that they pulled over and bought me chips, sweets, juice and water even after I swore that I didn’t want anything. Their Arab hospitality meters where through the roof. A small part of me wonders if they were eating vicariously through me…
One thing I found interesting is that none of the native staff members in the office take a lunch break. I asked one of my co-workers if this was only because it was Ramadan, but she said that this is a custom year round. Mal and I are welcome to take a lunch break if we wish to. We quickly learned that if we did want to eat something that we need to bring a packed lunch because everything near the office is closed during the day and there isn’t much of a selection at the few dakakeen (convenience stores) nearby. Our first day on the job, we roamed the streets for about half an hour on the hunt for food. We considered ourselves victorious once we scraped together some grapes, pita bread and chips for lunch. That day I discovered how delicious and surprisingly filling sandwiches made solely of pita and chips could be. I highly recommend it.
Ultimately, Mal and I are very happy to be interning with the Near East Foundation. We’ve already had the opportunity to travel to different parts of Jordan and to meet some amazing and resilient individuals whose stories will stay with us forever.
Entering the Zarqa governorate, which is about 30 minutes northeast of Amman, to visit one of NEF’s partner community organizations to distribute grants to women for business startups. The Near East Foundation has been working in Zarqa for about a year to reduce vulnerability of Iraqi refugees, Jordanians and vulnerable groups
Grant recipient Hadaya Alawi rubs one of her skin products on my hand to demonstrate the quality. Hadaya, whose name means gifts in Arabic, gave me several samples of perfumes and creams she made right before my eyes
Hadaya demonstrating how she makes hair dye from natural ingredients that you could find in your local grocery store
A group of volunteer trainers who led workshops and initiatives to promote gender equality and women’s rights in the Tafilah governorate
While on the drive back to Amman from Tafilah, my co-workers pulled over on the side of the road so I could snap this picture of this camel who strayed way from its caravan to model for me