Starting The School Year | From The Camps To The Badia

الأحد 31 آب 2008

Words & Photos: Naseem Tarawnah

It starts with an idea. A blogger who emails another, who emails a friend, and before you know it, you have an online campaign spreading through the local blogosphere and social networking sites. Some might call it online activism coming alive, but at the end of the day, it took less than a week to rally young Jordanians willing to help out with the Action Committee’s latest initiative: distributing a few school bags to needy students in the Kingdom. Volunteers paid a visit to the committee’s co-founder, Sara Sharif’s home to help put the bags together before venturing off into the Baqaa Refugee camp.

There, at the UNRWA schools, 36 girls and 29 boys received new bags filled with school-year staples such as pens, pencils, notebooks and geography sets. Imaging these schools is difficult to do without a first hand look at them. Each, all-girls and all-boys school, has well over 1,000 students with most classes consisting of at least 45 students.

In the main corridor of the UN-funded boys’ school, a solemn picture of Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon gathers dust behind a pile of broken desks, as the Action Committee’s arrival grabs the attention of the students in the school yard who circle around the alien pickup trucks filled with curiosity.

Five days later, a surplus of donations yielded more school bags, and this time, the Action Committee joined up with HM Queen Rania’s initiative, Madrasati. Only a few months old, Madrasati is really an initiative that looks to upgrade schools all over Jordan by bringing together all the necessary players: government, the private sector, the community and volunteers. In this way, all the elements work together to enhance the physical infrastructure of schools throughout Jordan. Launched in April, the initiative went to work over the summer and the results are pretty tangible and evident.

On an early Thursday morning, Ahmad Qtnany, another Action Committee co-founder, and I, joined up with a Madrasati team, made up largely of young Jordanians, and headed out to the Central Badia of Jordan. It’s as rural as you can get, and most of the scattered communities are dependent not on farming but sheep-grazing in the mostly desert lands.

Split in to two separate groups, we each got to tag along with the Madrasati teams and visit a public school to deliver a total of 75 new school bags. The school I personally got to visit had been newly renovated, with bags of unused cement still scattered around what can generously be called a school yard. This particular all-boys school is home to around 65 students and 11 of their teachers. The Madrasati team launched in to a series of sing-a-longs and played red-light, green-light to get the school kids excited before they were given new school bags, joining the 140 students that were helped in the span of a single week.

It should be noted that it is rather unique to see Jordanian activism taking shape online, with most of, if not all of the volunteering be rallied through various online channels. It’s not something you see everyday, especially in Jordan. It makes the virtual seem real. Hopefully Ramadan will inspire even more activism.

Also Check Out:
Complete Photo Album
Jordan Times Coverage
Action Committee

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