After a deserved few weeks of summer holidays back in Switzerland, the NOIVA team returned mid-August to Jordan. Newly motivated, they plunged ahead into preparations for the autumn season. This is the longest tenure of volunteer support from Switzerland lasting six weeks. During this time, a large number of refugees can be assisted, thanks to the increase in personnel. But the additional overhead is also a major challenge. After two weeks, it’s evident: The NOIVA team copes with flying colors! And the helpers from Switzerland give their best every day. Here initial reports from two participants – directly from Jordan:
The first few days were spent in a Palestinian camp, leading a children’s program each morning. In the afternoons, the women from our team put together a program for the female participants. In this safe environment, the women spent relaxing hours together with hand massages and jewelry making. But the particularly large response came through dancing together. We then prepared together a typical Swiss muesli to eat. Next came a theater course. The mood among participants was loose and we had a lot of fun together. The young men and women’s acting talents from the camp came to light. And for us from Switzerland, there were a few surprises, too! 😉
The second week, we were in an urban area where people are already familiar with the NOIVA team. On the first morning, we went to a large, empty space to spend outdoor time with the children from the neighborhood. The first ones arrived joyfully running up and calling us by name; they still remembered us from last time. Even the new volunteers in our group were warmly welcomed. Soon there were no adults to be seen who did not have at least one child by the hand or in their arms. Up to 80 children attended our program. We offered sports and simple games, but also singing-a-longs and creative activities. We even succeeded having every child make themselves a friendship bracelet and a Frisbee from paper plates.
In the afternoons, we divided our team into small groups and made home visits to families in need. We brought each household clothes, as well as a large food package. The families welcomed us with tea or coffee and enjoyed our company. Their beaming faces showed their gratitude without them using words. A woman from Syria told us through an interpreter that she has been in Jordan with her family for three years now, and never once had any visitors. She wanted to invite us for dinner and even to stay over. The hospitality and warmth of the refugees touch us every time. With each encounter, our respect for them grows even more.
As on previous missions, some nights we offered a cultural program which was open to all interested parties in the city hall. At the first event, a short play was performed. On the stage was a huge gift. The actors who participated reacted very differently to it. The first thought, “That’s not meant for me, I am not worthy of such a gift.” The second actor ignored the gift from sheer busyness. The third had his arms full of gifts already but could not believe that he should again get a gift. Finally, a fourth person appeared saying that the gift was only for him and defended it against all others, out of fear for not having enough for himself. Then came the big surprise. Suddenly an actor climbed out from the box and handed each of the bystanders a personal gift that fitted them. The moral of the story was that if we freely receive and accept gifts, then we ourselves can also become a gift to others.
The next cultural evening again was a great success. At the end of the event, something happened that particularly touched us. A Syrian family man adressed us and expressed his astonishment: Here are locals, refugees, people from different nations and of all ages, sitting peacefully together in one room, celebrating and enjoying themselves … He almost could not believe that such a thing was possible.