April 2021 marks 15 years of Collateral Repair Project’s work in Amman. Staff members tell us about the history of CRP, what the organization means to them, and how they envision its future.
CRP was founded in 2006 in Amman, Jordan, by two American women. Wanting to connect the citizens of coalition countries with Iraqis affected by the Gulf Wars, they opened a Family Resource Center in the Hashemi Shamali neighborhood. Located in one of Amman’s refugee hubs, CRP’s early days saw the center home to the Basic-Needs Assistance program, alongside a smaller version of today’s Hope Workshop. Speaking with the Youth Programs Coordinator Karam Hayef, the Basic-Needs Assistance Program Coordinator Samer Kurdi, and CRP’s Executive Director Amanda Lane, we discuss how the organization has changed in the last 15 years and how staff envisions its future.
Joining CRP in 2017, Karam Hayef describes the youth program as mostly run by short-term international volunteers, who would lead after-school activities for children. Thanks to funding from the Rotary Foundation, grants, and donations, the youth programming today includes nine distinct, structured programs. Each has its focus on children’s wellbeing and trauma-related care. While this change points to fantastic achievement, Hayef describes the progress as slow and steady. She explains that this change would not have been possible without the incorporation of community volunteers. After being trained and coached, community volunteers can become permanent fixtures on programs, allowing for more sustainable growth. With many being refugees themselves, community volunteers now run approximately 95% of CRPs programs. Hayef describes the impact that these volunteers have had on CRP as impressive because they can relate to the families. Today, Hayef expresses, community volunteers have made programs more sustainable in responding to the needs of the refugee community in Amman.
When Samer Kurdi first started volunteering with CRP in 2011, the Basic-Needs Assistance Program gave food vouchers to an estimated 20 Iraqi families a month. Kurdi became the program coordinator in 2018, and today it serves around 3000 families of various nationalities every year, which is a staggering growth. Kurdi explains the progress that has meant the most to him is establishing programs outside of all that encompasses emergency assistance.
There was a conscious decision to focus on community building, wellbeing, and livelihoods rather than only food assistance. We realize that it is important to do both, of course, and we see food assistance related to building community. But we are still pushing ourselves to build resilience in our community rather than focusing on their vulnerability. It is an ongoing project, of course, and not an easy one, and may or may not succeed, but it is both exciting and worthwhile.
Over the years, though, Kurdi explains that, for him, CRP’s strength lies in the things that haven’t changed.
We still know the people who come through our door, even as the numbers have grown. We are still an open and welcoming space that accepts people of all nationalities and backgrounds. And we still will listen to people tell us their stories, whether or not we can do anything to help.
Similar to CRP’s founders, Executive Director Amanda Lane came to CRP because of the need she saw to help Iraqi refugees who had been affected by the Gulf Wars. Before taking on her current role, Lane was both a volunteer and board member at CRP for two years. Today she speaks of the more personal impacts that programs have had on participants. Speaking of people who have fled war and are now facing the emotional repercussions of that, Lane describes a kind of transformation that can occur after coming to CRP. Things are as small as maintaining eye contact after being unable to do so becomes evidence of the healing that can occur after participating in programs. Lane also speaks fondly of the men’s program Keystone. Years after joining the course, men are still meeting up outside of CRP to exercise together. The relationships they’ve formed among themselves and the effects this will have had on both their self-resilience and self-confidence reinforces Kurdi’s earlier statements about the importance of building community resilience.
The notion that programs that focus on wellbeing are just as crucial as providing emergency assistance is something that Lane strongly believes in. Despite knowing that such programs might appear alternative, the evidence shows that they genuinely have something to offer. Stress is, according to Lane, part of the refugee experience– it doesn’t ever really go away. Programs that focus on education, exercising, and socializing, while also teaching new skills give people the tools they need to cope with this ongoing stress.
Aligning with the prior mentioned statements of Hayef, Lane emphasizes the necessity of community participation, describing it as the bedrock of CRP’s work. Cultivating community leadership and having community volunteers take the lead helps determine the future of CRP’s programming.
Speaking of the future of CRP, Lane explains the importance of moving towards things like coaching. This involves coaching individuals or families to help them build upon their strengths. It can include assisting them in maintaining a source of income and helping them support their families’ emotional needs.
Looking forward to the next ten years, however, is difficult. Lane explains that the refugee situation in Jordan is highly protracted. It is a lot more difficult now to get funding for humanitarian relief than at the beginning of the refugee crisis. For these reasons, helping to promote community resilience now, and ensuring that both CRP and the wider community have a sustainable source of income, is imperative to continuing to enact positive change in the refugee communities of Amman.
As CRP continues to grow, Hayef hopes that programs continue taking a holistic approach, focus on wellbeing, and can reach more community members and community volunteers. This way, the community can both trigger positive change while simultaneously reaping the benefits of it. For Amanda Lane, CRP’s future continues to provide a space for people to connect and feel that they are a welcome and accepted part of the community.
I think that for refugees, in particular, it is really, really hard to feel that you are welcome and a valued member of the community. I think that is so powerful. For people to feel like they can be themselves, that they’re accepted, and that they’re part of a bigger community.
Thank you to all our donors for making the last 15 years possible!
Eliza Ward, Marketing and Communications Team
Collateral Repair Project, 2021.