Syrian refugees teach Jordanians marketable skills

By Mohammed Ghazal in Amman

Jordanian youth take part in a training session as part of a UN Development Programme project that recruits Syrian refugees to teach vocational skills. [Photo courtesy of the Business Development Centre]

Jordanian youth take part in a training session as part of a UN Development Programme project that recruits Syrian refugees to teach vocational skills. [Photo courtesy of the Business Development Centre]

When Shirin Hreidin fled to Jordan to escape the violence in Syria in 2012, she felt isolated and alone, she told Al-Mashareq.

But as soon as she began transferring her sewing skills to Jordanian girls, she began to feel more at ease and was able to forge many friendships, she said.

Hreidin, a mother of three, came to Jordan's northern Irbid province as a refugee, with her parents. She had worked as a professional seamstress in Syria, and has extensive experience in the field, but could not benefit from her experience in Jordan because of her feeling of isolation and fear of integration.

These feelings changed, however, after she joined a UN Development Programme (UNDP) initiative, which brings Jordanians and Syrian refugees together to exchange skills and professional and technical expertise.

Syrian refugees who possess expertise in certain fields or professions are being paid to teach Jordanian youth handicrafts, home food manufacturing and sewing, among other skills.

Promoting social cohesion

Hreidin is among a number of Syrians selected to train Jordanian youth as part of the project, UNDP Livelihoods and Employment Programme officer Maha al-Khatib told Al-Mashareq.

"The programme aims to mitigate the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis on Jordanian communities hosting refugees and promote social cohesion between Jordanians and Syrian refugees," she said.

Al-Khatib said the purpose of the programme is to "integrate Syrian refugees into society and help Jordanian youth develop skills that could help them land jobs or start new income-generating enterprises".

"Many have benefited from the programme, and we are working to obtain funding to expand and continue the programme in the coming years," she said.

Through the programme, Syrian refugees transfer skills and professional expertise sought after in the Jordanian labour market to Jordanian youth via three-month training sessions supervised by specialists.

Syrian refugees who are selected to take part in the programme are paid during the training, and some Jordanians also receive funding to start small job-creating enterprises.

'A life-changing programme'

"The programme helped me break the fear barrier," Hreidin told Al-Mashareq.

"I formed many friendships and got acquainted with more Jordanian and Syrian families," she told Al-Mashareq.

"After a long absence from work as a seamstress, which I like very much, I was able to be of benefit and contribute to Jordanian society," she said. "I am proud of this, and I hope the programme continues and expands to benefit the largest number of people possible."

"I was a stranger in the community, but now I am in constant contact with the girls I trained and always provide them with suggestions and advice," Hreidin said.

Haya Abada, a Jordanian mother of four who lives in Irbid province, said the programme changed her life considerably.

Abada received training in home food manufacturing, and subsequently opened a small shop where she sells Labneh (strained yogurt), cheeses, pickled goods and other household foods that she makes.

"I learned a lot from my female Syrian instructors, and now have an excellent monthly income, thanks to the skills I learned, and my business is growing every day," she told Al-Mashareq.

"I am very grateful for that, and most importantly, I was able to establish friendships with our Syrian sisters and benefit from their experience," she said.

"We are friends now, and the programme is beyond amazing and beneficial to both sides," she added.

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