Marka is a fairly rural area - despite including parts of East Amman within its borders - it is characterised by swooping valleys, dramatic hills and mountains, and a pleasant covering of greenery at this time of year. It also includes a refugee camp erected in 1968 for 15,000 refugees. In these aspects, Marka has a lot in common with other Rebuild for Peace centres: breathtaking scenery, a certified trainer from the local community, and proximity to the people who need our help the most.
However, the Marka centre has one key difference: most of our students there are well above our usual age range of 14-25. In fact, in the fashion design and clothing repair classes that we are now running there, the average age is closer to 50. So why have we decided that this is the the most helpful programme to run in Marka?
First of all it’s worth considering that many of the at-risk population of the area are in the Marka refugee camp. The camp now includes 2 schools run by the Jordanian government, and 10 under the name of the UNHCR. The systems in place are already focused on young people, and youth education facilities in the area are now relatively well-established.
But that wasn’t always the case in Marka. When the first refugees arrived there from Palestine in 1968, it was an “emergency camp”, with thousands upon thousands of tents filled with desperate people, and no real infrastructure. The camp saved lives and provided people with a place to live, but also created a lost generation of people who had no access to education for the vast majority of their childhood.
Lots of people affected by this lack of education are now in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, with children and families to look after in a country that is becoming more expensive to live in every year. People have had to rely on the UNRWA’s Social Safety Net programme just to survive, and in many cases this has been true for the entirety of their lives. These, as well as local Jordanian women, are the people for and with whom Rebuild for Peace is working in Marka.
Being present for the first lesson in the Marka centre was surreal. We knew that students were keen to get going, but there was no way I could have imagined the extent to which that was true: when the class began, the students started giggling!
For a second I was confused, before I realised what was going on. For many of the students, this was their first time in formal education. This group of mothers and even grandmothers was laughing not out of humour, but out of youthful, girlish excitement. It was the same mixture of embarrassment and curiosity that any teacher will know, and it was a wonderful, magical moment to see it come alive in this group of women who have had to struggle for so much of their lives.
What has Rebuild for Peace done?
What we have provided is a safe space in which people are learning about fashion design and clothing repair, both of which are community needs as identified by the local government’s research team. The women attend classes every day at the Rebuild for Peace centre, gaining new skills whilst also forming new relationships and learning about how they can be peace-builders within their communities.
And because of the community need for these skills, the women will immediately be able to capitalize on them after graduation. We provide all students with the tools and financial aid to start their own businesses so that they can become financially stable and independent, and be a force for positive change for those around them.
In other words, the Marka Centre is different because every community is different: in possibilities, attitudes, and needs. However, all communities share the need to grow sustainably as a whole, valuing every member whilst keeping an eye on the future. And that, as Rebuild for Peace, is always our goal.