Last week, CRP was overwhelmed with bittersweet sentiments as staff members, beneficiaries, interns, and volunteers said their goodbyes to Zayneb Al Asaadi, CRP’s Deputy Director and Overseer of Emergency Assistance, as she prepared to move to Turkey.
For the past two and a half years, Zayneb has catalyzed unprecedented growth and change at CRP, all while establishing friendships and connections across the community through her humble leadership, humor, and encyclopedic knowledge of food and travel.
Zayneb’s journey with CRP began when she took a break from her job as a risk consultant in the United Kingdom and spent two weeks volunteering in Greece during the height of the European Refugee Crisis. While in Greece, she witnessed some disturbing scenes. For example, she says, “. . . the boats that were capsized, the people that were drowning, the people who made it . . . it really brought the refugee crisis home to me.”
Before Zayneb was born, her parents left Iraq and moved to Britain, where she grew up. Despite that, Zayneb’s Arabic is fluent, and all of CRP’s Iraqi beneficiaries agree that her Iraqi accent is pristine. What she saw in Greece served as a reminder of her background: “If my parents had stayed in Iraq, and fast forward 25-30 years later it could have very easily been my family.”
With such thoughts going through Zayneb’s head in Greece, she heard about us. “I heard about CRP and the work that they’re doing in Jordan, and I heard about Amanda—so I was thinking about taking a sabbatical, taking some time out of my job that I was doing for seven years. . . . It was a good job, but it wasn’t personally fulfilling,” she said.
After contacting CRP, and Skyping with Amanda Lane, CRP’s Executive Director, Zayneb went back to England and began preparing to move to Jordan with her husband. Within six months, they arrived. After taking on various projects and roles in CRP, Zayneb eventually settled-in as Deputy Director and Overseer of Emergency Assistance.
Jenan, a volunteer at CRP, says, “As much as you can imagine, Zayneb is humble . . . she never made me feel like I’m just a volunteer and she’s the boss. She made me feel important, like I make a difference.” And Fareed, a CRP beneficiary and participant in Music class, says, “Every time I see her, I can tell she’s busy—but despite that, she talks to people, and she makes everyone feel safe, she makes everyone feel confident.”
Zayneb’s connections with the community, from both a professional and personal viewpoint, is reinforced by her background, which is akin to that of CRP’s beneficiaries—so much so, in fact, that she is sometimes mistaken as a refugee by other beneficiaries. To Zayneb, though, this is a positive notion, as she explains. “For work in an NGO to be successful, the gap between the provider of service and those receiving service has to be very narrow . . . [not] when you have people in ivory towers pontificating about how to best serve the community, while they don’t really understand the community. So when people see me and think that I’m a refugee like them, to me, that’s a very big complement.”
Although Zayneb will depart from CRP and Jordan, her efforts and contributions to CRP won’t. She will be working remotely at least once a week on an upcoming Teen program that she has come up with. “I’ll be dedicating one day per week, working on developing the curriculum, the materials, coordinating with the staff here at CRP, just to ensure that it comes to fruition really well,” she says.
“The people I’ve met here, the staff, the community—we’ve become like family members. So I will always stay connected, and want to know how they’re progressing, and where they are in their lives. Having worked here, seeing firsthand the values of the organization, and seeing them in action—I will always continue to support their work.”
To Zayneb, we say thank you. Thank you for all the dedication and mentally laborious years that you have put forth for CRP and its beneficiaries. We are proud to have worked, and grown, with you.