Refugee families find sense of community through lunch gathering
AMMAN, January 2011—With the generous support of private donors in Jordan, Germany and the United States, twenty disadvantaged Iraqi, Jordanian and Somali families gathered to enjoy a thanksgiving lunch where the shared sense of community took precedence over daily struggles.
Over thirty volunteers from ICMC and the Jordanian Dozan wa Awtar choir welcomed the families, who took advantage of the unique opportunity to relax and socialize, while their children played freely. The event was organized after families benefitting from ICMC outreach and humanitarian assistance told staff that they often “feel forgotten” and that they missed normal social interaction that provides some sense of normalcy in their lives rather than dwelling on their needs or suffering.
Live music offered by the Dozan wa Awtar choir gave special life to the day’s activities. Participants enjoyed a short concert featuring both Arabic and Western songs, and the opportunity to sing along after learning the songs together.
“Many of the kids were shy at first, but warmed up to each other and to the music when Dozan members joined them in the crowd,” said ICMC Middle East Program Manager, Elizabeth Biermann. A trained music therapist also worked with the children, teaching them songs and encouraging them to dance and play on the drums.
Most of the families participating in the luncheon live in inadequate and cramped housing in poor areas of Amman, where they are isolated from their neighbors and children have few, if any, safe spaces to play.
“Many of the children—who are usually holed up with their entire family in one-or two-room apartments and are too afraid to play on the street—relished their newfound physical freedom over lunch so much that they spontaneously decided to play outside for over an hour,” said Biermann.
The children also participated in activities ranging from face painting and mask making, to felt decorating, storytelling and a puppet show. Before leaving, each family received a gift bag containing school supplies, toys and dry food boxes.
“This lunch,” noted Biermann, “served as an opportunity for families to learn more about services available to them, and to forge connections with other refugee families who can serve as essential sources of support and information. This was true for the Somali families who often feel forgotten, as much as it was for the Iraqi families who arrived just weeks ago and had no previous information about available NGO services.” Thanks to the success of this year’s initiative and requests from those in attendance, ICMC intends to continue this tradition on an annual basis.