Community Centers paves way for integration amongst refugees in JordanBeing a refugee can be an alienating experience for people who have been forced to flee their home, but DRC’s new community-led community centers in Jordan have created a life-line for many.
Muna Abdulkarim is a 32 year-old mother of four. Her face erupts into a smile when asked what DRC's new community centre on the outskirts of Amman, Jordan has meant for her.
"Before I just sat alone in my house. No-body visited and I have no friends. Now there is a place for me. I meet people, I learn and my children can be safe," says Muna.
Jordan is home to some 805,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees. The crisis in both countries has torn families apart and many refugees are arriving without their loved ones and belongings, and without any hope of seeing them again. For 13 months Muna has lived in Al Hussein camp, one of the urban "slums" in Amman that houses thousands of refugees and vulnerable Jordanians, but until the community center opened she had not met a single person.
"I know the children are affected by the war and I worry every day but it is difficult when you don't feel safe to talk to people," Muna said, adding "In Syria we live communally and always look out for one another."
An important part of DRC's protection and outreach services is ensuring vulnerable refugees have access to needed services. A welcoming communal space housing psychosocial services, referral services connected to legal aid, health, education and child protection initiatives are critical for reinstating dignity for refugees, and the three new DRC Community Centers opened this year across Jordan are playing a crucial part in delivering this basic needs.
"The success of the centers is that they are community driven. A steering committee made up of appointed members from the local community decide what activities will be run in the center," says Karin Rahmberg, DRC-Jordan Amman Program Manager.
Since the Mahatta Tarabot ("together") Center opened in April, patronage has averaged from 75-100 per day and around 65 local community based organisations have become connected to the center to use its training space and facilities.
Mass migrations of Syrian, Iraqi and Palestinian people into urban regions of Jordan have fractured communities, often alienating refugees from one another and service providers. The foresight of DRC with funding from UK-AID to build community centers is starting to breakdown such barriers and provide needed support for refugees and their host communities.
Reem Al Jabba is one of DRC's implementing partners from Jordan Hashemite Charity Organisation for Relief and Development (JHCO) heading the project team at Mahatta. For the past two months the trained psychosocial worker has been thrilled by the increase in morale by those using the center.
"I am starting to see the same children and adults each day but everyday there is more of them. They start to walk in with more confidence as if it is their home. Syrians, Jordanians, Palestinians; they all want an opportunity to interact and improve their lives. No-one was happy staying in their homes alone," says Reem.
The center has employed over 50 full time and volunteer staff. Alongside community centers in Ma'an and Karak the Mahatta center is expected to reach at least 19,000 beneficiaries.
The influx of Syrian refugees in Jordan has been growing exponentially since the crisis erupted 2011. As of June 2015, Jordan is hosting 747,360 Syrian refugees. UNHCR estimates that over 85 per cent of all Syrian refugees in Jordan are living in urban host communities, with camps taking only a fraction of refugees. For those Syrians displaced in Amman, there remains a fundamental gap in assistance which the new community centers seek to mitigate.