“No discrimination by passport”: the Jesuits in Jordan

Maysaloun, a teacher at the JRS school, on the balcony of the school, nestled in amongst a high density suburb. Teachers like her are invaluable to the development of the school. Hailing from Iraq, she is currently awaiting resettlement, hopefully to Australia. (Dominik Asbach/JRS)

At the Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins (JC:HEM) programme in Amman, Jordan, the Jesuit Refugee Service operates a ‘no discrimination by passport’ approach. It serves all refugees equally whether from Iraq, Palestine, Somalia, South Sudan or Syria.

Building the capacities of mature refugee students

The purpose is to build the capacities of mature refugee students through higher education courses that will give access to further third level education. Most of the staff of JRS Jordan are refugees too and working to improve their technical and management skills.

There they can study for a Diploma in Liberal Studies—a three year blended online and in-class undergraduate course—or a Certificate in Community Service Learning Tracks—short term courses that focus on community needs such as English and Life Skills.

Offered in collaboration with a worldwide network of Jesuit universitites, the standard is high and the adult students work hard taking the opportunity to advance academically, form new social networks and be supported in their social and emotional well being in a respectful environment.

“I feel as if this opportunity has saved my life”

Ismail Haroun from Sudan is 27 years old is currently a student at JC:HEM and has been in Jordan for three years. Ismail says the Diploma programme has inspired him to think of life differently. “When I left college – I studied a year and a half in Sudan – I thought I was done studying. I had lost hope in everything and was depressed” he said, “but I feel as if this opportunity has saved my life; to have a second chance to complete my education. I began to realize that life has many opportunities in store, not only for me but for the betterment of humanity.

“Leadership is not easy, but it’s much easier when you understand the tools, or the way to lead. The Diploma programme teaches people how to apply what they are studying, especially conflict resolution, leadership or communication skills.

“This course inspires the students to change things around them, transform their ideas and share them with the community to resolve conflicts or disputes. The most valuable part of the course for me is giving hope by example. When I find people who have lost hope, I tell them what I’ve been through and what I’ve accomplished.”

Ismail is now a community leader and advocating for vulnerable people in his community.

amman urban refugee
Haider, an Iraqi refugee, attends a social gathering for the Sudanese and Somali refugee community. A fulltime student, in his spare time he teaches English at the JRS school, a true example of how refugee communities can assist each other. (Zerene Haddad/JRS)

New skills. New networks. New sense of respect.

JC:HEM has helped diverse refugee communities integrate into the urban environment of Amman, Jordan where xenophobia and marginalisation are both common. Under the guidance of the JRS staff values of respect for diversity are encouraged. The school offers refugees an opportunity to form new social networks, as well learn new skills.

Wherever the ex students eventually settle down, they take their qualifications with them to help them in beginning their new lives.

The Irish Jesuit Missions and Misean Cara support JRS Jordan. If you would like to contribute please click through to here