The Voices of the Future
The “Voices of the Future” is a Davis Projects for Peace Project that brought together Syrian refugee and native Jordanian youth through peaceful mechanism of Art, Education, Dialogue and Leadership. Through a collective exploration of these activities, the youth participants in the program learned to understand each other and their individual and collective experiences so that they can together raise their voices about their concerns as future leaders and stakeholders of their communities.
In partnership with the local Jordanian organization, ARDD–Legal Aid (Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development), the program was implemented as a youth summer program in the city of Zarqa.
Zarqa, located to the northeast of the capital city Amman, is an underserved city that is a host to a diversity of populations, from native Jordanians to Palestinians. Since the crisis in Syria, Syrian refugees have also become members of this hosting community.
With limited development and resources, the community in Zarqa struggles with a diversity of issues including poverty, drugs, education degradation, lack of community recreation resources and more. These are issues are supplemented with problems that are characteristic of host communities, such as the mistrust between the diverse member of the community – between the hosts, the permanent residents of Zarqa, and the recent arrivals, the Syrian refugees.
The program focused on these issues in one neighborhood of Zarqa, called “Gueria.” A friend who took us on a tour of the neighborhood described Gueria as the ‘Harlem of Jordan.’ While Gueria is not exactly Harlem, the young boys and girls in the neighborhood face similar issues that are apparent in all underserved communities – lack of educational and recreational resources, drugs, harassment, run-down streets and buildings, pollution, and more. These issues become event more complex as we highlight different aspects of Gueria – the divide between the local Jordanian and Syrian refugee populations and the differences in the experiences of the boys and girls living in the neighborhood.
There is only one community center in Gueria, which is the Zarqa branch office of ARDD-Legal Aid. Before our program, the office was offering services to the neighborhood and greater Zarqa community but not specifically catered towards the neighborhood youth. By conducting our “Voices of the Future” program in the ARDD office in Gueria, we transformed the office into a community center that the Gueria youth now feel welcomed and safe in.
Components and Objectives:
As a way to build understand between Jordanian and Syrian youth in Gueria and to help them think and dream beyond their immediate circumstances and problems, the program focused on the following components:
Considering the universality of the English language and how it can open a lot of opportunities for the students to connect with others outside of their community, a major component of our program was English. All students were given English instructions based on their prior knowledge of the language.
Art is a form of self-expression and therapy. Through the visual arts (i.e.painting, collage, drawing, etc.), creative writing (prose and poetry), and photography, the students were able to think through their life experiences and try to understand their own identities and the community they live in. The exploration of different art forms was done with the guidance of different mentors who have expertise in their respective arts.
- Dialogue and Leadership
An important objective of the program has been to empower the students to learn from their experiences, to reflect on their community needs, and then transform their community as future leaders. The first step of this process is dialogue. The students engaged in intense dialogue about different identity and community-based issues such as the meaning of home, community, and service.
Dialogue between students allowed them to surpass their differences as Jordanian and Syrians. Together they transformed their talk into action as future leaders who pursued service projects in the neighborhood. To further empower the students, motivational speaker guests encouraged the students to take in charge of their own lives.
Our Support Network:
The Voices of the Future is a project organized by Princeton University students Wardah Bari and Farah Amjad – Class of 2016. The project is sponsored by Princeton University and the Davis Projects for Peace grant.
The project was executed in partnership with the Jordanian aid organization ARDD-Legal Aid. The project worked under the umbrella of ARDD’s “Voice Project” which trains refugees in different Jordanian communities on citizen journalism skills.
ARDD provided the Voices of the Future project with different facilities and incredible project staff and volunteers without whom this project would not have been possible.
The Voices of the Future Team
Project Managers: Wardah Bari and Farah Amjad, Princeton University, Class of 2016
Project Assistant: Shaima Anabtawi, ARDD-Legal Aid
Intern: Aya Bseiso, ARDD-Legal Aid, Penn State, Class of 2017
Volunteers: Lara Naseer and Lean Mana
[Clarification]: The “Voices of the Future” is the updated name for our project, which in its conception was called “The Children’s Playground: Fostering Peace between Native and Refugee Communities.” The project was executed as it was conceived; the name was changed for language purposes, as “Voices of the Future” translated in Arabic is more accessible to our Arab students and audiences than the “The Children’s Playground.”