A few months ago, CRP nominated two of CRP’s Syrian staff members, Aseel and Hesham, to attend a three-week leadership exchange program in the United States. Following their nomination, Aseel and Hesham had to undergo a rigorous vetting process, including filling out twenty application forms, sitting down for multiple interviews, and waiting for over a month and a half. Eventually Hesham and Aseel got the word that they’d both been accepted into the program!

IVLP participants pose in front of The White House in Washington D.C.. Amongst them is Aseel (standing, far right) and Hesham (standing, in the middle), both of whom are CRP staff members!

Hesham, who teaches the Gender-Based-Violence Awareness Program and works on Basic-Needs Assistance, explains the exchange program that he and Aseel attended: “The training that we went on is called International Visitor Leadership Program [IVLP]. . . the program designates how many they will host from each nationality, and every nationality has a preselected training topic.”

IVLP is a Department of State program that brings eligible individuals to visit the U.S. and learn about topics relevant to the individual’s country or host country: “. . . for other countries it was about structure rebuilding, enabling education, et cetera.” Hesham says.

As Syrians, Aseel and Hesham learned about addressing trauma arising from natural disasters and conflict. Now they are bringing their new knowledge back to CRP, where it will be used in several ways. Aseel, who administers several women’s health programs at CRP and also works on Basic Needs Assistance, says, “We can start implementing what we learned about how we interact with CRP’s beneficiaries—as in we don’t only receive them, but also initiate the first step of their total recovery—starting psychological support workshops at CRP, and by conducting staff trainings.”

Aseel and Hesham back at CRP

On a personal level, Aseel found empowerment and motivation in her visit to the U.S., as she explains, “I saw in the U.S. how women are equal to men in the workplace, or even superior in rank, sometimes. This gave me strength to work on myself, and hope that we [women] can eventually become equal to men; in work, education, and every other field.”

As for Hesham, he found learning to be an enriching experience. “I got introduced to a new culture, a new pattern of life, and a new nonprofit work mechanism. . . . Besides that, I learned about trauma recovery, which I wasn’t very knowledgeable about beforehand.”

A short visit to the U.S. might not sound like a big deal, but for Aseel and Hesham, the idea of going to America was very special.  For many refugees, traveling to the U.S. is the light in the end of the tunnel of the uncertain, and long-winded suspense of UNHCR’s resettlement process. Both were a little sad to leave the U.S. and come back to their lives of uncertainty as refugees, but they were also glad to come back to their children after being away. After returning to Amman, both Hesham and Aseel felt a greater anticipation for the future, and what they can do right here in our community.