Many people thought we were absolutely crazy selling just about all our worldly possessions and moving as a family, sight unseen, to Jordan, in the heart of the Middle East.
The most common question that accompanied my plans was simply, “Is it safe?”
It’s a fair question when the news portrays it as a place full of disarray, violence, and hatred.
It’s a fair question because Jordan is nestled between Iraq to the east and Syria to the north. Not to mention the Israeli/Palestinian conflict to the west.
What we came to realize over our 3 years in Jordan was that if it wasn’t the most hospitable place on Earth, it was very near the top. It was incredibly safe. It was incredibly peaceful. And it was beautiful, from the people to the land.
Jordan was a place where people smiled at my family and constantly said, “Ahlan wa sahlan” to welcome us to their beautiful country. Where my kids were treated to balloons, treats, and piggy-back rides around the restaurant by kid-adoring waiters who simply wanted to give my wife and I time to eat our food, uninterrupted. Where losing something valuable meant finding it in the same place, untouched.
Kindness in Jordan wasn’t an exception, it was ingrained into the fabric of the people.
And it’s that kindness that lends itself to helping large amounts of people in need.
Where do people in the Middle East escape from unstable or unsafe situations in their home country? Very often, it ends up being Jordan.
Refugees account for 10% of Jordan’s population.
In a country that is one of the most water-poor countries in the world.
In a country that relies on foreign aid simply to survive.
Yet, they continue to take in people.
Dusty and desolate or often words associated with Zaatari. It is the largest of the refugee camps in Jordan. Almost entirely compromised of more than 80,000 Syrian refugees who have fleed the unrest north of the border, Zaatari has become the fourth-largest city in Jordan, and the second-largest refugee camp in the world.
People who fled violence and terror are able to find a safer place to land.
They are happy to be alive and relatively safe.
Yet, it’s in a foreign country.
But it’s a home.
Yet it’s not their home.
Thousands of children have been born in Zaatari since 2012.
They’ve never stepped foot outside of the 3 square mile camp. They go to school in the camp. They play sports and hang with friends in the camp. Their entire life has been surrounded by fences. They are among families stuck in a sort of purgatory, as they can’t settle in the cities and towns of new country, while at the same time, unable to go back to where they are from. Hope is hard to sustain.
Their world is 3 square miles.
Yes, refugees are the lucky ones. The ones that got away from horrific conditions in their home countries. However; it doesn’t mean they are happy. It doesn’t mean that their life is improving.
They had to sacrifice everything to get to a safe place but that safe place doesn’t look, feel, or taste like home.
How might we help them make that safe place into a home?
How might we give them hope for their future?
Clean health and well-being is goal #3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. These goals provide huge opportunities for educators to not only educate their students on critical issues in our world, but provide authentic and powerful learning experiences for students that combine understanding, awareness, and action towards solutions to some of our planet’s most pressing issues.
Our students are the future and they have the unique opportunity to shape it. They don’t need to be a certain age to start thinking about how to make their world a better place. And they certainly don’t need to be a certain age to start doing something about it.