Sorry I’ve been MIA for awhile. I’ve had a lot going on over here. First, my parents flew in on June 24th to visit me for a week. I gave them a whirlwind tour of Jordan, visiting Petra, Wadi Rum, Aqaba, the Dead Sea, Madaba, Mt. Nebo, Bethany Beyond the Jordan, and Lot’s Cave. In the process I exhausted not only them, but myself as well!
Then, on July 2nd, the day after my parents left to return to the States, I traveled to Ajloun, about an hour northwest of Amman, for a youth summer camp that LSN organized. I didn’t return from the camp until late Saturday afternoon.
Every summer, LSN-JO organizes a summer camp for its survivors. This year, the camp’s theme was disability, youth, and social development. Both LSN youth survivors from around the country and youth from a private high school in Amman were invited to participate in this year’s camp. The objective was to use a community service approach to facilitate the youth’s engagement with each other and in their communities. By employing a strategy of self discovery and focusing on the youth’s abilities rather than disabilities, the camp’s goal was to promote social inclusion and an appreciation of the youth’s similarities and not their differences.
While the camp was organized by LSN-JO, the activities were conducted by the American Friends Service Committee’s (AFSC) Palestinian office, with assistance from volunteers from AFSC’s Jordan office, older LSN survivors, and the alumni club of the private school whose students were attending the camp. Other entities that LSN partnered with to make the camp possible were the Higher Council for Youth, Greater Amman Municipality, Ministry of Tourism, and Al Rabad Castle Cooperation.
As the theme of the camp was social inclusion, I could tell from the moment I arrived at the Jordan Paralympic Committee building, where we all departed for Ajloun as a group, that the camp leaders and facilitators would have their work cut out for them over the next 4 days. In every corner of the room sat a different clique, each made up of either only youth with disabilities or youth without disabilities. Even some of the facilitators and volunteers, those who were supposed to be mentors and leaders, had formed their own groups, not bothering to initiate any new relationships.
And then there was me, with my practically non-existent Arabic-language skills. As soon as I walked inside I felt like I was in freshman year of high school all over again – that feeling of being the only person who doesn’t know anyone. Only this time, it was pretty much true; the only people I knew were the 2 LSN employees, and they were busy getting everything under control so that we could be on our way. However, my fears of having unintentionally imposed a 4-day vow of silence upon myself by choosing to attend this camp were soon quelled as one of the Palestinian AFSC employees sat down at my table and began talking to me. Soon, his colleagues joined him and I had quickly made some new friends.
After getting settled at the camp, the youth were divided into 4 groups, each of which had one AFSC leader and 2 or 3 volunteers to help facilitate. The group activities focused on the youth getting to know each other (as well as themselves), recognizing the similarities among the group members, and realizing that they are capable of accomplishing much more than they expected. At first, it seemed as though nothing the leaders did was getting through to the youth – they just were not interested in anything other than the friends they already knew. As soon as the group activities ended, the youth would immediately revert back to their original cliques. However, as each day passed, they grew more and more comfortable with each other. By the last day they were sitting, talking, and playing together during free time.
The other major activity of the camp was a community service project. Not far from the camp was a dirty, run-down park with dilapidated playground equipment, rocks and weeds where sand should have been, and trash and cigarette butts everywhere. The youth were tasked with cleaning up and rehabilitating the park so that it would be more suitable for children and families, particularly those with disabilities. I was skeptical at first as to how much work these kids would actually do, but they seriously impressed me with their enthusiasm and dedication to the project. I was so proud of them. And I could tell that they were proud of themselves for accomplishing their goal and being able to see that the local children (as well as a number of camp participants) were enjoying the revitalized park.
Posted By Krystal Sirman
Posted Jul 7th, 2008