A Family Unites During Hard Times: Asma’s Story



A large craft area now consumes the family room in Asma’s home. The table is cluttered with colorful fabrics, threads, candles, and patterns and drawing for new designs. Asma carefully crafts her newest creation, while her children prepare for their next trip to the local bazaar. By all accounts, Asma’s life looks happily busy and secure—but it’s been a difficult road to get to this point.

Asma grew up in the outskirts of Amman, married young, and gave birth to five children in quick succession: three boys and two girls. Life as she knew it changed dramatically when her husband unexpectedly passed away and Asma found herself entirely responsible for providing for five children. They had accumulated little to no savings and with only having a 10th-grade education Asma felt at a loss as to how she could support her family. To meet immediate needs, Asma took out a loan but found that she was only qualified to receive 200 JOD – her rent alone was 175 JOD. If her family were to safely survive their deteriorating situation, Asma knew she needed to find a way to earn a steady income.

Asma always had a special talent for creating toys for her children out of old or broken items around the house so thought why not turn this skill into an income. Asma immediately started to test her abilities—challenging herself to repurpose old items not only into toys but also into new household trinkets and accessories.

While her products improved, Asma still lacked the knowledge and guidance on how to turn her DSC_6222_editedcreations into a profitable business. After seeking help from the Ministry of Development in Jordan, Asma was referred to one of NEF’s Siraj Centers near her home and qualified to attend a business development training there.

On the first day of the training, she decided to bring some of her merchandise so she could showcase her business idea and test her products. The other women at NEF’s Siraj Center were so impressed that she actually ended up selling everything she brought that day. Asma felt encouraged by their warmth and support and felt she had finally found a place that would help her turn her life around.

With help from the training, Asma developed a formal business plan and was awarded a cash grant to help her buy the supplies she needed to improve the quality and increase the number of her products. She described NEF’s training as “the starting point of her life.” She went on to explain that through the training she was able to learn how to correctly price her items (taking into account the cost of her raw materials, time, and transportation to and from the bazaars) and deal with customers. Of equal importance to her was the sense of community she gained by being connected to such an encouraging group of women. She said that they continue to keep in touch, provide each other with support, and learn from one another.

DSC_6147_editNow remarried, Asma shares how supportive her family is of her business. Her eldest shared his pride in what his mother has accomplished saying that they have seen how hard she has worked to provide for them all these years which is why they want to support her work as much as they can. All of Asma’s children join her at each bazaar or craft festival she attends, helping her deal with customers and set up her display. Another one of her sons commented on how much he has learned about running a business from watching Asma, saying when he is old enough, he would like to take business classes like his mother took.

In the future, Asma hopes to expand by opening her own shop. She described NEF as a “shining star” that presented itself to her when she was most in need of help and went on to say, “I now am truly happy because I am financially secure and self-reliant.”

Because of the gratitude Asma feels for being able to turn her life around, she now makes time for her family to do voluntary work so they can give back and provide hope to families who are struggling.

NEF’s economic livelihoods work in Jordan is funded by the U.S. Dept. of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and City & Guilds.

Why we need to focus on long-term solutions to the refugee crisis

A field update from Andrea Crowley, NEF Director of Donor Engagement

HanaIn recent weeks, we’ve heard how international support for humanitarian assistance is falling dangerously short of what is needed – leaving 200,000 refugee families who are completely reliant on cash assistance in immediate risk. Without financial support, these families are forced toward dangerous coping mechanisms including unregulated labor, begging, child marriage, and radicalization – all of which further complicate and exacerbate the ongoing crisis.

On a recent trip to Jordan, I witnessed first hand the increasing need for long-term solutions and saw why passive cash assistance is simply not enough. When visiting with refugee families and hearing their experiences, I felt the weight of what they had been through, an acceptance that they would likely be a refugee from their home country indefinitely, and their desperation for a better life for themselves and their family.

One of the women I met with, Hana, is a refugee who has been receiving cash assistance from an international agency to support herself and her children (her husband died a few years ago). While extremely grateful for the support, she expressed living in a constant state of worry and stress of what would happen when this aid ended. The money she received also wasn’t enough to cover their basic needs (rent, heating and water). Hana knew that she needed to do something to earn money and become more financially secure. That is when she sought help from one of NEF’s Siraj Centers near her home.

At any one of the four Siraj Centers we’ve established in Jordan, refugees and vulnerable Jordanians are able to access training, counseling, and critical information needed to find jobs, start businesses, improve their physical and mental well-being, and strengthen their families’ economic resilience.

After attending one of our business development workshops, Hana started catering food out of her modest kitchen where she prepares popular dishes she learned to make from her mother as a young girl. From the profit she makes taking orders from her neighbors and the local supermarket, Hana is able to bring in a sustainable source of income to support her family’s needs. With a smile on her face, Hana told me that she feels much stronger now because she is able to depend on herself and not others.

“With a smile on her face, Hana told me that she feels much stronger now because 
she is able to depend on herself and not others.”

At NEF, we believe that providing people with safe opportunities to earn an income is critical for their survival. We are working hard to help people move past their reliance on passive aid by building their resilience and autonomy so they can independently generate an income. As support for international aid fails, our work is needed now more than ever.

I urge you to share this message and consider a gift to NEF today. It is up to us, and donors like you, to help others like Hana survive on more than humanitarian aid.


Lead OOWB Farmer in Jordan Shares Lessons Learned


Fatima may seem an unlikely Jordanian agricultural leader. At only 17 years old she was married and moved from the urban center of Amman to a rural farming village in Ajloun. While she didn’t have the opportunity to pursue an education growing up in the city, she fully committed herself to learning all she could about agriculture to help manage her new family’s 34-dunum farm. “In the beginning, I faced many difficulties and challenges in my new environment; city life is so different from the simple village life that depends on agriculture,” Fatima said. “I tried to adapt to my new life and my new society.”

Now 57 and a mother of six, Fatima is a lead farmer in NEF’s Olive Oil Without Borders (OOWB) project, which expanded to Jordan in 2017. Even though she has worked exclusively in Jordan’s agricultural sector for forty years, she told NEF that she has benefitted greatly from the information in NEF’s cross-border trainings and has shared her knowledge with other Jordanian farmers.

Similar to olive farmers in Israel and the West Bank, farmers in Jordan face challenges with olive diseases, water shortages, and ensuring the production of quality crops and oil. Fatima and her family specifically face many obstacles such as a lack of updated agricultural equipment, changing climate conditions, and a general lack of support for the agricultural sector in Jordan. Through the OOWB project, Fatima and others have been able to benefit from the knowledge of other olive farmers across the region. These interactions have reaffirmed her commitment to working together with her community to overcome some of these issues and improve their olive oil production.

With her dedication to this work and to teaching others, Fatima developed a Farmer Field School on her land with the help of NEF where she shares improved techniques for olive farming.

“Now, after my participation in this project, I’m even more interested in taking care of our farm and helping farmers in my village through what I have learned.” 

From the experience, Fatima has become a leader in her community. She shared her appreciation for the opportunities OOWB has presented for her personally and professionally, saying, “I received a lot of training to develop myself and increase my knowledge about agriculture and how to improve the quantity and quality of olive oil produced on my farm. I participated in all the trainings and activities organized by the project team, acquiring many experiences and skills, and increasing my knowledge. Because of this, I also felt more confident to start passing this information on and training farmers around me.”

As one example of how the project has transformed her confidence, Fatima shared, “During one training, I was teaching farmers how to make fly traps when my husband, who was participating, tried to suggest another method that was not correct. I stuck to what I knew and proved I was correct in the practical application. Now, my husband consults me on all agricultural matters and trusts my expertise!”

OOWB, implemented by the Near East Foundation and funded by the United States Agency for International Development, works to promote long-term, large-scale collaboration in the olive sector through cross-border initiatives and trade agreements that increase income, production yields, and regional trade. These efforts have so far brought together 5,000 Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli farmers, mill operators, producers, and other agricultural stakeholders.

Restoring Livelihoods and Lifting Spirits

In recent years, hundreds of thousands of families have fled war and violence in Syria and Iraq to seek refuge in Jordan – where over 738,000 refugees now reside. Upon their arrival, the struggle to gain their footing and rebuild their life begins and often continues for many years. It is in this landscape that NEF is working to provide both vulnerable Jordanian families and refugee families with safe and sustainable opportunities to earn an income and regain economic stability.



1I1A5560 “When I went to see how the houses were destroyed, it was a very difficult feeling. Fifteen or sixteen years were taken away within a moment.”

Asma operates a local cooking business in Jordan. Her prepared meals and catered goods have gained a reputation in her neighborhood and demand for her product has grown, allowing the family to pay down their debts and meet their needs. She is proud of what she has been able to achieve with this activity saying, “I have a stronger personality now. I want to make sure my product is perfect, unique, and different from the other products in the markets.” She has gained confidence and independence, especially with regard to decision-making on where to spend money, saying, “Now if my kids ask anything from me, I can do it.” 

Asma’s outlook is much different than just a few years ago in 2013 when Asma and her family were forced to flee their hometown in Syria after their neighborhood was raided and bombed leaving their home destroyed. Like nearly 80 percent of the refugees who seek safety in Jordan, Asma’s family chose not to remain in a refugee camp and moved into a low-income community in Jordan’s urban sprawl.

Although she and her husband found informal work cleaning houses, cars, and cooking for neighbors, they were unable to earn enough to meet the family’s basic needs. Describing this time, Asma said, “The monthly money that my husband was making was not enough to cover all of the monthly expenses. It ran out the middle of the month.”

Asma and her family faced many of the logistical and emotional challenges that confront refugee families starting over in a new place—difficulties finding sustainable, safe, and dignified jobs, accruing debt during the resettlement process, limited access to credit, feelings of isolation, acclimating children who have experienced trauma to new lives and new schools.  

The strain of these challenges reach beyond the refugee community to the host community as well—resulting in declining income and rising poverty, unemployment, and debt. Without help, vulnerable families often resort to harmful strategies such as begging, early marriage, or child labor to get by.

Asma cooking

NEF is working to address these issues by providing refugees and Jordanians with the support they need to overcome these mounting challenges and set out on a path to secure a steady source of income. NEF offers trainings on business development, employability, vocational trades, and financial literacy in some of Jordan’s most vulnerable communities. Paired with the trainings are small business grants, social networking, and on-going mentoring and coaching for new entrepreneurs.

Through NEF-led trainings, Asma learned how to develop a business model, market her products, interact with customers, set prices, and enter into new markets. With the project grant she received at the completion of the program, she purchased a refrigerator for food preservation, giving her as she says, the “push” she needed to really get started.

Asma’s household has seen a 50 percent increase in income from her cooking business. Her customer base continues to grow, and she is planning to invest in additional equipment and another refrigerator to keep up with increasing demand. The family has now started to save some money for the future and emergency expenses which brings Asma and her husband great peace of mind.

On overcoming the challenges she and other refugees face as they rebuild, Asma says, “Why should we feel as though we are weak? We have to prove our presence in our community and defy anything that comes our way. For the sake of our children and for future generations, we should show them that we must never give up.”


1I1A5648“The honey trade is a beautiful business and a clean business. I hope to expand my business and develop it to export honey to Iraq or outside Jordan.”

Qaiser is 41 years-old. He is a husband and father of four, a son and three daughters. He and his family moved to Jordan from Iraq in 2013. 

Qaiser entered NEF’s program with the idea to start a business producing honey to be used for both general consumption and its homeopathic health benefits. His reason was simple, “It was an opportunity to start businesses so that we [refugees] are able to stop relying on assistance.”

For Qaiser, starting a small business was just as much about boosting his morale and motivation as it was to develop a source of income. While adjusting to his new life in Jordan, difficulties finding work and having to rely on humanitarian aid made it difficult for him to keep a positive outlook. He shared that he still finds it extremely difficult to think about his family back Iraq, especially his parents, but says, “There are big differences between now and before, any support that you get pushes you to improve and increases morale of the individual and the family.” 

1I1A5653When describing the circumstances under which they left Baghdad, Qaiser says, “There was sectarian turmoil. There were dead bodies in the streets, and I was afraid for my family.” That is when they left everything and came to Jordan to start a new life.

Now the whole family contributes to making the business successful. “They help so much in my business, and they work beside me preparing honey and filling bottles. They work with me for many hours, and they get as tired as I do,” says Qaiser. 

In addition to covering the family’s basic needs, profits from the business allow Qaiser to provide other items such as school stationary, toys for his children, and vitamins for his wife who is currently pregnant with their fifth child.

On what he learned from the trainings Qaiser says, “I benefited so much from my participation in the project, because I learned how to enter the market, how to do marketing for my product, how to build trust with customers, and many other things that improved my business idea.”



“There are no challenges or obstacles too great for the blind. They have many opportunities but they need more support because the society has the wrong idea that the blind can’t do anything and they should just stay at home.”

Hanan is a 45-year-old Jordanian woman who sells hand woven goods to earn supplemental income to support her 18-year-old son. This is a worthy achievement in its own right, made that much more notable when considering that Hanan lost her sight when she was just 28 years-old. 

In recent years, Hanan has pursued a new chapter and become a skilled weaver. And with NEF’s assistance, she turned what was once a hobby into a way to generate income.

Hanan shared that it boosted her morale greatly when she learned that there was an organization interested in helping people like her, with disabilities. Of the training, she explained, “The trainer was so good and had an easy training methodology, and NEF’s team also had a good way of communicating with me. Therefore, I continued the training and the trainer explained everything to me and there were a lot of women participating, so it felt real and not like just a hobby.” With the knowledge she gained from NEF-led trainings, and the project grant she was awarded, Hanan purchased materials she needed and started getting her products in front of new customers at trade shows, public markets, and community association activities.

1I1A5615Hanan is steadily gaining more customers and bringing in around 20 JD ($30) per month in revenue from her business. She said that she now makes decisions at home about how to spend her money without having to ask permission and has confidence in her decisions and home management. She expresses her desire to continue to build her business saying, “I want to reach people with my products, and that was the most important thing to me. NEF supported me very much both physically and emotionally, I thank them so much for their efforts because this experience taught us [women] how to depend on ourselves, it taught me personally that the blind can do everything we want. I am able to prove to people that I can work and be productive.”


NEF’s work in Jordan is funded by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (BPRM) and City & Guilds.

Click here to learn more about NEF’s work in Jordan.

Addressing the long-term impact of the refugee crisis

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As conflict in Syria and Iraq displaces thousands, NEF continues to address the protracted refugee crisis in Jordan and Lebanon. Humanitarian aid remains largely focused on immediate and short-term needs, providing little to no support for the long-term impact this crisis will have on affected communities.

With an eye toward the future, NEF is providing solutions that will support both the displaced and affected host communities through inclusive opportunities that enable conflict-affected individuals to earn a living and build resilience against future shocks. In practice, this includes strengthening the capacity of both refugee and host communities to recover from crisis and emerge from poverty through business and economic development, employability training, vocational training, financial literacy and financial/start-up assistance, social networking, and on-going mentoring and coaching for new entrepreneurs. As both women and youth are known to be the most vulnerable during times of conflict, NEF’s work in both Jordan and Lebanon has a focus on adolescents and women headed households.

NEF partners with local civil society organizations (CSOs) to provide these and other services at hubs known as Siraj Centers. In Arabic, the word “Siraj” means lantern—with the connotation of a beacon of light and hope. The aptly named centers offer individuals a safe environment to receive training, information, guidance, and coordinated referrals to other service providers.

NEF in Jordan

Strengthening economic and social resilience
Recent activities in Jordan include multiple four-day business development trainings for 455 participants in four areas of Jordan—South Amman, East Amman, Irbid, and Zarqa. A total of 64 workshops have been held in these four locations since March of 2017. The goal of these trainings is to support business creation and income generation, which will positively contribute to the local economy.

Capacity Building
To establish a sustainable framework for continued livelihoods efforts supported by the local community, NEF held an “Ideation and Innovation” workshop to establish a network of local “Master Trainers.” In May, 24 Master Trainers (of Jordanian, Iraqi, and Syrian nationalities) received the necessary training to train others on how to transform their ideas into tangible businesses, perform strategic planning, implement best business practices, and monitor their business’ progress.

Youth Training
Limited opportunities, isolation, and tension contribute to a sense of despair and hopelessness among  refugees and poor Jordanians. To address this, NEF trained 334 adolescents (52 Iraqis, 79 Jordanians, and 203 Syrians) in financial literacy tailored toward supporting self-development through financial management skills. The training sessions also strive to contribute to social interaction and harmony between Jordanians and Iraqi and Syrian refugees, thereby promoting mutual respect and social cohesion. 

To date NEF’s efforts in Jordan have directly benefited 7,960 refugees and Jordanians and indirectly benefitted the lives of 39,800.

Last month, a bazaar was held in Zarqa where project participants had the opportunity to display and sell their products.


NEF in Lebanon

Strengthening economic and social resilience
NEF and its partners have conducted 43 business development trainings for over 1000 Lebanese and Syrian men and women. Additional training sessions covering life skills such as household budgeting and savings were also provided. 209 grant recipients have commenced business operations, either through providing services or selling products.

Vocational Training
Over 370 Lebanese and Syrians received vocational training (300 women, 70 men) related to the type of business plan they had selected. Vocational training topics spanned such industries as food production, tailoring, hairdressing, aesthetics and make-up, book keeping, handicrafts. 

Capacity Building
NEF has helped to increase the capacity of 34 civil society organizations (CSOs) to provide high quality and expanded services. Staff members from each CSO are now able to conduct business development trainings, business coaching, business networking, as well as financial literacy training for adolescents. Additionally, CSO’s have improved their ability to respond to protection incidents and provide appropriate referrals. In May, NEF met with CSO staff members and volunteers to significantly improve and systemize the process of participant data collection and monitoring participant’s progress—this effort will make it possible for NEF and its partners determine the success rate of these services, and make adjustments for improvements as needed.

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Khayriye (top right photo) was one of the first few women trained in the Minieh center. She has now purchased a sewing machine and completed a six-day vocational training on tailoring. Khayriye thanked NEF and Hadatha saying, “This project was a great opportunity for me.”

To date, NEF’s efforts in Lebanon have directly benefited 3,050 refugees and Lebanese and indirectly benefitted the lives of 12,200.

NEF’s work with displaced and host communities in Jordan and Lebanon is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development’ Bureau of Populations, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), the Dodge Foundation, and City & Guilds Group.


NEF expands work to improve livelihoods of refugees in Jordan and Lebanon


In August 2016, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) awarded the Near East Foundation (NEF) a one-year project grant to continue to scale up its work in Lebanon and another two-year project grant to continue its work in Jordan with refugees and host community members.

Eighty-six percent of Syrian households and 80 percent of Iraqi refugees in Jordan live below the poverty line. Similarly, poverty in Lebanon has increased 61 percent since 2011 due to the refugee crisis, and 70 percent of refugees in Lebanon are living below the poverty line. Access to basic services like housing, food, healthcare, and jobs are a significant challenge for both refugees and vulnerable Jordanian and Lebanese families who have to compete over these basic commodities. These conflict-affected and vulnerable families rank employment and income-generation as their highest priority.

While humanitarian aid focuses on immediate needs, NEF is pioneering innovative and cost-effective solutions to address these issues—providing families with conditional cash assistance to help place children in education programs, and implementing initiatives to help strengthen families’ economic resilience.

The PRM grant in Jordan is the third grant NEF has been awarded as a response to its successful programs there where so far over 2,000 refugees and Jordanians—mostly women—have participated in NEF-led business development training helping to expand and finance business in various sectors, including: cooking, sewing, dairy, agriculture, handicrafts, and carpentry.

Take Ebtisal, who fled the violence in Syria and came to Jordan in 2012. With a sick husband who was unable to work, Ebtisal found herself immediately searching for work in Jordan. Unable to find a job, she soon was introduced to NEF’s program helping refugees. Through the project she was given cash assistance to help her start her own catering business—where she makes Syrian kebah, a pastry filled with ground lamb, seasoning, and pine nuts, to sell to her clients.

Because of the success Ebtisal’s business was seeing, NEF connected her with the local bazar, which provided an opportunity for her to market her growing business and expand her client base. Ebtisal said that her clients, who are mostly Jordanian, say that her Kebah is delicious, which makes her feel proud of herself. Ebtisal is saving a portion of her profits so that she can soon buy a refrigerator and a larger oven so that she can expand her business and make more of a profit.

Another example comes from Muna, a Jordanian woman who is the primary breadwinner in her house. Before joining NEF’s project, Muna was struggling to make ends meet. She said “the love for my family inspired me to apply to be a part of the [NEF’s] program so I could try to start my own business.”

With the cash assistance she received, Muna opened a children’s clothing business. The small grant had a huge impact on Manu’s quality of life. When asked about how her business changed her life, Muna said, “After I received the grant, I felt like I am strong enough to do anything…if someone plans for something, they can achieve it. It is different when you don’t have enough capital to start something compared to when you do. It’s very empowering.”

With its newly awarded PRM grants, NEF aims to continues its efforts to reduce the negative coping strategies by providing economic opportunity for 4,380 refugees and Jordanians. And in Lebanon, NEF aims to reduce the vulnerability of 2,000 refugee and Lebanese households and help 3,500 individuals access resources that will help increase economic opportunity.

To watch NEF’s work in the region in action watch:

Empowering Women in Lebanon from Near East Foundation on Vimeo.

NEF Partners: Lutfiyeh, Jordan from Near East Foundation on Vimeo.



Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and NEF Gratitude Scholarship Program: What is the UWC Experience?

This September, applications for the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and NEF Gratitude Scholarship Program will open for promising youth in the Middle East who are looking for a transformative educational experience at one of six United World College (UWC) schools in the September 2017 academic year.

UWC as a movement operates on three pillars: multiculturalism, peace, and environmentalism. Its mission is to provide a life-changing educational experience to a diverse cross-section of students to inspire them to create a more peaceful and sustainable future. The unique curriculum at UWC schools provides a well-rounded approach that pairs traditional academic coursework with creative action-oriented service opportunities. 

Campus life is a significant part of the UWC experience and is greatly influenced by the culture of the geographic locations in which each of its schools are located. This gives students the opportunity to learn about a different culture through their new surroundings as well as from a diverse community of classmates, faculty, and staff.

UWC’s alumni body is an impressive group of dynamic individuals, many of who attribute their success back to their tenure at a UWC school or college. To hear them speak of their time at their respective UWC alma maters is to understand how profoundly their experience influenced who they are today.

In a letter for UWC’s Impact Stories, Ruddy Ndina, alumnus of UWC Waterford Kamhlaba, discussed his experience as a refugee who fled the Democratic Republic of Congo with his family after war erupted in the late ’90s. After living in Mpaka refugee camp in Swaziland for over seven years in harsh living conditions, options for this future seemed limited. However, Ruddy’s parents were determined to see him succeed and instilled in him and his siblings a drive and determination that allowed Ruddy to excel academically and receive a scholarship to attend UWC Waterford Kamhlaba. When reflecting on his experience, Ruddy said:

“My time at Waterford was very transformative as it provided the platform to develop my academic and leadership skills whilst also contributing to the development of my community. I served in various leadership roles; however, the most meaningful experience for me was participating in the Mpaka Refugee Camp Community Service Project. This project was very close to my heart, especially because I once lived in that refugee camp and I could directly relate to some of their pains and struggles. The kids at the camp generally viewed me as a “big brother” and I was excited to inspire a deeper sense of appreciation for academics and leadership development.”

At the letter’s conclusion Ruddy emphasized, “My story is about empowerment and the trickling effect of UWC generosity in helping refugee students overcome their challenges and pursue a better life, just like every other “normal person.”  You can read Ruddy’s full story here.

Ruth Buttigieg, from Malta, graduated from UWC Adriatic, Italy in 2008 and went on to receive her MSc in public health nutrition from Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. She is now living in Edinburgh, Scotland and works as a specialist in ketogenic diets for the management of diabetes, epilepsy, and cancer while studying for a PhD in nutrition at Queen Margaret University, investigating the role of dietary polyphenols in healthy aging.  Of her UWC experience Ruth had this to say: “My favourite UWC memory is of Easter during my first year there. It was the first time I spent Easter away from home and the idea of not having an Easter lunch was quite saddening. So, my friends and I decided to prepare our very own version of Easter lunch. It was the most random and most memorable Easter I had. At the table we were Catholics, Muslims, Atheists, Jews, Orthodox, Hindus, Buddhists, etc., yet we all sat together, ate and discussed each of our traditions. I’ll cherish that memory forever because it showed me that if you respect each other’s beliefs, then conflict can truly be a thing of the past.”

Another alumnus and former UWC International Board Chair Christian Hodeige spoke of his time at UWC Pear College, saying, “Certainly the idea of people being able to live together from totally different backgrounds, upbringings, religions, ethics, and political histories really blew my mind. One of the biggest gifts from UWC is the knowledge that multicultural living works. I am able to counter people who say that if we live in conflict, we must segregate each other. I think this knowledge, no matter how strenuous it was at the time, stays with you.” In regard to the learning environment Christian said, “My favorite times at college were the village meetings and the theory of knowledge courses. At the village meetings all teachers, all students, all staff could have their view. There was a lot of healthy debate, which created a very free and incredibly encouraging environment.”

To learn more about UWC schools and colleges and how to apply visit, www.uwc.org.

The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and NEF Gratitude Scholarship Program was developed jointly by the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and NEF to express gratitude on behalf of the global Armenian community. It will provide 100 academic scholarships over the next eight years to at-risk youth from the Arab Middle East who have been affected by conflict, displacement, and poverty. This year, selected youth will have the opportunity to receive a world-class education at the following participating United World College (UWC) schools:

UWC Dilijan (Dilijian, Armenia)
UWC Robert Bosch (Freiburg, Germany)
UWC Red Cross Nordic (Flekke, Norway)
UWC Maastricht (Maastricht, Netherlands)
UWC Adriatic College (Duino, Italy)
UWC Mahindra College (Pune, India)

Applicants from the following countries will be eligible to receive a scholarship for the 2017 academic year: Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. NEF is encouraging youth who meet the established criteria to pursue the application process for the scholarship in the participating countries, which will be available in the Fall of 2016.

Eligibility criteria includes the following:

•  16-17 years old by September of the entry year
•  High academic performance or potential
•  Basic knowledge of the English language
•  Comes from an underprivileged and/or at-risk group (refugee, orphan, or someone who comes from a marginalized background as recognized by the UWC national committee).


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The program will be administered through the Scholae Mundi Foundation, which aims to provide students with opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to the international community and catalyze social change.  http://www.scholae-mundi.org/en/ 

About Aurora Humanitarian Initiative
The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative is committed to building a board, global humanitarian movement. The initiative is rooted in inspiring stories of courage and survival that emerged during the Armenian Genocide, when 1.5 million Armenians perished. Those fortunate few who survived were saved by the courageous and heroic acts of institutions and individuals who intervened, at great risk. A century later, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative seeks to express gratitude, share remarkable stories of survivors and their saviors, and celebrate the strength of the human spirit. 

About UWC Movement

UWC makes education a force to unite peoples, nations, and cultures for peace and a sustainable future. To achieve, this UWC deliberately selects students of different ethnicities, religions, nationalities and socio-economic backgrounds. Selection for UWC is based on merit by selection committees in more than 150 countries. This unique and challenging education model places a high value on experiential learning, to prepare students for future roles in community leadership. Founded in 1962, UWC now has 15 schools and colleges on five continents, the majority of these are two-year residential colleges following the International Baccalaureate Diploma, a qualification UWC played a major part in developing. Currently, 75% of UWC students receive either full or partial financial assistance. UWC also has a network of short courses, often held in regions of political, economic, ethnic or environmental tension on themes such as conflict management or environmental awareness. The UWC movement aims to inspire a lifelong commitment to social responsibility and to creating a global fellowship for international understanding among its alumni, now numbering more than 50,000. 

For more information contact the UWC National Committees for each of the participating countries:


Palestine Refugees In Lebanon





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International Refugee Day

As we marked International Refugee Day last month, many paused to reflect on the state of our world today—where families are forced to flee their homes due to war, conflict, and persecution.

In Syria, half of the country’s pre-war population, more than 11 million people, has been killed or forced to flee their homes—largely finding refuge in neighboring countries.

Intessar, a 37 year-old woman and single-mother of five, had to flee Syria with her children as violence intensified in her home country. To escape, she and her family had to walk from Syria to Jordan along the Yarmouk River. Families tend to make their journey on foot during the night to avoid being shot by snipers or being caught by soldiers.

When Intessar was asked if she could envision a future in Jordan, she replied, “Yes, because there is no hope to go back to in Syria.”

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While immediate humanitarian aid is important, NEF remains focused on implementing innovative and cost-effective solutions in Jordan and Lebanon to help refugees survive in the short term, and thrive in the long term—enabling them to meet their own needs with dignity and to become productive members of their new communities. NEF does this through skills trainings to encourage economic opportunity, financial literacy, social networking, cash-assistance grants, and training in urban agriculture so that families can become food secure.

Living in Zarqa with her children, Intessar was struggling to provide for her family. Through a local community-based organization she found out about NEF’s program—funded by the Embassy of Taiwan—that provides opportunities to reduce negative coping strategies among poor, vulnerable, urban Syrian refugees and Jordanians through business trainings, financial literacy, and start-up grants.

Through NEF’s program and a project grant, Intessar was able to set up a small clothing shop. She said that the best part of the program was “meeting and learning from other women in similar situations.” She is now able to enroll her children in school, and is taking a course in English herself so that she can continue to develop her network.

On June 20, International Refugee Day, NEF hosted a visit from the Taiwanese Ambassador in Zarqa at one of NEF’s local CBO partners, Khawla Bint al Azwar Society. During the visit, 50 women received project certificates and spoke about their experience and success with the project.

The Taiwanese Ambassador commended the women for their courage, determination, and the inspirational role they play within their families and communities as independent businesswomen in Jordan.

Nada, another woman at the event, fled Syria for Jordan after a bomb destroyed her house and killed her husband. Alone in Jordan, Nada desperately searched for a way forward and found NEF’s program. With a background in sewing, Nada decided to develop a tailoring business, and with the grant she was able to buy a sewing machine. Through the program, Nada says that she learned to “support herself and become more skilled with managing her finances and how to save.” She is able to save 10 Jordanian Dinars monthly (roughly 15 USD). She added that the other women in the program have “become her friends and are now like family.”

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Another woman, Fattoum, fled Syria with her family to Lebanon. “We left everything behind, we came here with nothing.” Her husband does not have a job, and together they have four children—one with cancer.

“Putting a meal on the table is a continuous challenge, the amount of money we spend on rent and medicine leaves us almost nothing for food.”

NEF is providing Fattoum with training in small home-based business development and urban agriculture so that she can grow fruits and vegetables at home.


When describing her experience, Fattoum said, “This program empowers me as a woman to become more productive and self-reliant. Growing vegetables at home will help us save some money that can be spent on other things like medicine. NEF’s trainings will help me stand on my feet and gives us hope that we can provide a better life for our family.”

One thousand thirty-four Jordanian and Iraqi and Syrian refugees have received trainings in business development, vocational skills, and financial literacy, and women who started their home-based businesses have now increased their household income by an average of 64 percent (75 percent among refugees).

In Lebanon, 69 women have attended trainings on urban agriculture techniques, 44 urban agriculture kits have been distributed to families so they can grow fresh fruits and vegetables at home, and 20 cash-assistance grants have been distributed to help families to support their income-generating activities.

NEF’s work with refugees in Jordan and Lebanon is funded by the U.S. Department of State—Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (BPRM), Embassy of the Netherlands in Amman, Embassy of Taiwan in Amman, the Cleveland H. Dodge Foundation, the Bogosian Quigley Foundation, and GlobalGiving. For more information, click here.

Netherlands Ambassador Visits NEF’s Youth Forums Project to Promote Gender Equality

On June 23, 2016, NEF’s Jordan office hosted Ambassador Paul van den IJssel of the Embassy of the Netherlands in Jordan to provide an update on NEF’s Youth Forums Initiative for Promoting Gender Equality in Tafilah Governorate.

After a presentation highlighting the project’s many breakthroughs, the ambassador visited a number of exhibitions that were created by young Jordanians who have participated in the project for nearly a year. The youth-produced exhibits included:

“Silence Is Not My Language,” presented by Ghandal Female Youth Forum, a play that depicted the challenges surrounding women’s right to education and the adverse effects that early marriage can have on women’s lives.

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“It’s Enough,” housed at the Buisra Female Youth Center, which showcased drawings by female youth who participated in its Youth Forum. The display included many incredibly poignant and powerful pieces that addressed the sensitive issue of gender-based violence through the eyes of adolescents.


“My Photo Tells My Story,” which displayed a photo gallery of portraits of strong female figures from the community with brief descriptions.

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“A word could make a difference, but there is no difference between us,” displayed at the Ein Al-Baida Youth Center, which presented positive messages aimed at promoting gender equality printed onto a cloth tapestry. In addition, posters were printed and posted in public places around Tafilah with these same positive messages.

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“Journey to Gender Equality,” which premiered for the first time at Qadesseh Female Youth Center. The exhibition showcased a series of informative and educational posters about the principles of gender equality according to various international treaties—including photos of well-known women’s rights activists from all over the world. 

An interactive element requested that attendees leave anonymous suggestions on ways to improve gender inequality in Tafilah. Over 400 suggestions were received on the exhibition’s opening day.


Launched in September of 2015, NEF’s Youth Forums Initiative was developed to address harmful social norms for women, specifically in the communities within the Tafilah Governorate. It was designed to start a productive conversation, by way of a youth-led movement, about women’s lack of visibility in civic, economic, and political life, as well as their limited control over household decision making and assets.

To date, the program has succeeded in its goal to extend its youth-led campaigns to schools, community groups, youth centers, government institutions, and the greater community.

Through a “training of trainers” approach, NEF has partnered with five youth centers and 10 area schools to equip 150 youth (half male and half female) with the skills to effectively engage in community development initiatives to advance women’s rights and challenge gender inequality. The ambassador’s visit concluded with a presentation of certificates to these youth instructors.

Using a curriculum called Youth Advocacy for Women’s Rights (YAWR) to train these young trainers, NEF has utilized this same approach to educate 200 teachers and parents on issues related to gender inequality and women’s rights.

Through a nomination process, 12 youth were elected to meet regularly to discuss and plan women’s rights initiatives. This has resulted in 10 youth-led women’s rights initiatives being launched since the project began. A total of 5,000 community members have participated in one of these initiatives in some way. Additionally, there have been a number of advocacy campaigns that have taken hold around topics such as promoting sports and physical education among female youth, vocational schools and increased subjects/majors in schools for women, early marriage, and improved marriage laws and regulations.

For more information about NEF’s work in Jordan, click here.


NEF works to “Raise the Voices of Women” in Jordan’s Tafilah Governorate


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Tafilah, Jordan—In Jordan, literacy and enrollment in all levels of education have improved dramatically for women. However, these gains have not led to meaningful improvements in their participation in decisions surrounding control of assets, family and personal matters, civil society, or policy. Women’s voices and literal visibility remain restricted by a combination of discriminatory laws and social norms.

A lack of vision or platform for women’s issues means civil society and political actors do not promote women’s rights. Women are rarely represented in political, economic, or public spheres, and voting rates and political activism among women is low.

NEF’s Youth Forums Initiative for Promoting Gender Equality, funded by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Amman, is providing this missing platform. Working with youth in Tafilah, NEF aims to change the attitudes and cultural norms that keep women at home and dependent on male breadwinners.

At the grassroots-level, NEF is creating 10 youth forums in 5 youth centers and 10 area schools to provide tailor-made trainings in women’s rights, activism, leadership, social media, and campaigning. At the government-level, NEF is creating a network of youth forums, funding youth-led initiatives, and facilitating advocacy for this mission to municipal governments. By working to make young people more capable with regard to civic participation and challenging gender inequality in their communities, NEF is making way for social and policy change.

2016_Jordan_EER II_Youth Forums_61The overwhelming majority of the youth participating are driven, confident, young women and girls who express a strong desire to change traditional attitudes about the roles of women in their community. With the support and participation of their male counterparts, these young people are challenged to come up with powerful ideas on how to change the hearts and minds of greater society through public marketing campaigns and leadership initiatives.

NEF recently trained 20 members of youth centers in a “Training of Trainers” program where young men and women learned key skills to promote and train others on gender equality.

When asked why she participates as a youth trainer in the program, Danya, a young woman who recently graduated with a degree in agricultural engineering said, “To raise the voices of women.”

Another trainer, a young man named Emad has been an incredible advocate of the project. He was invited to an in-person round table meeting with King Abdullah to represent NEF’s Gender Equality Youth Forum where he and the other invited youth leaders from all over Jordan met to discuss matters related to youth participation in civil society and policy making.

Part of NEF’s work in Tafilah is also to educate parents and teachers about women’s rights and youth participation in civic life. NEF believes that parent and teacher participation is critical to propelling this movement forward as they are the greatest influencers in young people’s lives.

Ultimately, the project will reach over 2,000 community members.

To read more about our work in Jordan, click here.