Like most people, I have spent a lot of time worrying that I might never find an enjoyable, fulfilling job. My brain has enjoyed taunting me, particularly with the creation of an imaginary scene in which I take a huge container containing everything I learnt from my Modern Languages and Cultures degree and pour it slowly and completely into the sea, where it rots and is eaten by fish as I look on regretfully. This image was strong in my mind when I arrived in Jordan in late December 2016, where I planned first to attend a language school and then try to find something worthwhile to do with my time for the months after the school term had ended.
As it happened, I needn’t have worried.
It was late afternoon when I sensed a stranger gliding through the freezing living room of our basement apartment. I say "sensed" because the thickness of my clothing so severely limited my movement that in order to greet the apparent newcomer I was required to rotate my entire body, as one solid and totally inflexible object, as far as I could and then angle my eyes slightly so that I could just about see his bearded visage. To get an idea, imagine Michael Keaton’s batman but with the stiffness applied to my whole body rather than just my neck.
The man had the air of somebody who had transcended all earthly needs and now lived entirely off his own good vibes. This would have explained why he was wearing just one shirt and a pair of jeans, while I had cocooned myself inside at least 5 of each, and had completed my outfit with a jacket, a scarf, a woolly hat, and a long cloak.
‘Hi’ I said, in strangled tones.
‘Hey how are you?’ - breezily, as though it were about 30 degrees Celsius (or 86 Fahrenheit...) outside and the cool basement was a refreshing break from the heat.
‘Good thanks, is there someone you’re visiting in the apartment?’. This was rather a direct line of interrogation, but I really was quite tired from spending so long inside the cocoon and wanted to get straight to the point.
“No, I live here”.
You’ll understand my surprise: by this point I had been living in the apartment for nearly a week and yet this man was a total stranger. He certainly didn’t look like he’d been underground with no sunlight surviving off deep-fried breaded nuts for as long as I had…
Deep-fried breaded nuts
I soon discovered that the man was Chris (Udall, CEO of Rebuild for Peace) and he had spent his time thus far getting up ridiculously early to meet people, or locked inside his room making calls, sending emails, and organising projects. That was the first time I heard about Rebuild for Peace, and I was already excited: it was a new, well-researched NGO helping refugees with a very specific methodology (using vocational training), and it seemed like exactly the sort of project where I could be of use.
So it was with difficulty that I hid my enthusiasm when Chris asked me to read over the text sections of his new website. If anything, I probably came across as extremely irritated that I had to help, over-compensating in order not to appear to be forcing my way into Chris’ project and becoming the n+1st cook, where n=the maximum possible number of cooks who can work on the broth without spoiling it.
But I was in luck: Chris continued to ask for my opinions and help, and, as I learnt more about the project, my enthusiasm to provide these continued to grow. After a couple of months, I was walking in Amman (Jordan’s capital city) with Chris and he asked if I wanted to move to the small town of Karak where his centre would be and work with him on it.
I accepted before he’d even finished his sentence.
After that I started working with Chris full-time on Rebuild for Peace. We were building the website, applying for grants, fundraising, meeting potential donors and volunteers, fine-tuning and researching many points of the project, working out how we would use social media, and working on all sorts of other huge and tiny projects required to start an organisation. Chris would take everything I suggested into consideration and I truly felt like I was making a difference to this project that I believed in so strongly.
I didn’t really have time to realise how much I was learning from all of this until months later. A lot of trust had been put in me - not to do anything beyond my capabilities, but in a way that would never be possible at a bigger company because it was all due to the fact that Chris now knew me very well and therefore knew what he could trust me with.
With many important aspects of the organisation, even website design and meetings, Chris would often ask what I was doing, and if he thought it sounded good he would simply say that it ‘sounds good’ and leave me to it. If he though it did not sound good, he would inform me of how to make it more good. That was the entire system: I was trusted, I was working hard, and I was enjoying it. A pretty simple setup, and it appeared to be working for us both.
As time went on, I started to see that more and more of the work that remained to be done would require specialised skills that I do not yet have. It also turned out that we would not be moving to Karak because our funding now meant that we would need to start 7 new centres in 7 different places.
This was a bittersweet realisation, because it showed that Rebuild for Peace was growing into what it needed to be, which was both inspiring and ingratiating, but it also meant that my involvement decreased. Eventually I decided to start working part-time with Right To Play Jordan (another education-based NGO) while staying part-time with Rebuild for Peace. The experience I already had from Rebuild for Peace was invaluable for my new work.
Now I’m back in England and in my final year at university. I still contribute to Rebuild for Peace when my university timetable allows it, and I will continue to do so as time goes on. I hope to return to Jordan and continue the work that I started there, and advise anybody else who wants to make a difference to the world and has a chance to be a part of Rebuild for Peace’s amazing work to seize the opportunity with both hands.