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Taking Action on Youth Employment

Taking Action on Youth Employment

 Jordan, Middle East, February 7, 2018 – Maximpact Training Network would like to present one of it’s partners Jordan Education for Employment (JEFE).

JEFE was established in 2006 as the first affiliate in the Education For Employment (EFE) Network, and today is one of Jordan’s leading youth employment organizations. Based in Amman, Jordan EFE operates across Jordan, particularly in under-served areas in Irbid and Zarqa.

The EFE Network extends across Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, with support hubs in the USA, Europe, and the UAE.

JEFE’s impact is astounding:

  • Over 5,300 youth in Jordan linked to employment and the wider world of work.
  • 54% of Jordan EFE graduates are young women.
  • 191 employers have hired Jordan EFE alumni.

Their latest program “Jordan Competitiveness Programme” was implemented with the support of USAID to help train and better prepare 853 beneficiaries, of whom more than 600 were placed in full-time jobs. The programme, launched in 2015, has already placed 600 new graduated in private sector. As part of the programme, JEFE led 26 training sessions to better prepare the new graduates for the Jordanian job market.

JEFE, through sponsored programmes, prepares and assists youth and women for employment.

Read two stories of how JEFE helped Hala Hourani (sales assistant) and Shatha Al Qurashi (entrepreneur).

Hala Hourani , JEFE’s Alumna.

Hala Hourani , JEFE’s Alumna.

Hala Hourani

Hala Hourani is a 21-year-old female living in Amman. Hala found herself yearning to pursue a meaningful and fulfilling career; but she had to overcome many obstacles along the way. After her parents retired, she wanted to provide for her family. She hated asking her parents for money and began feeling like a burden to her family.

Hala loved working with people, so she obtained a diploma in Tourism Management and Hospitality. Despite her hard work, Hala had to face the harsh reality that her diploma did not guarantee her a job. She searched for employment for five months, which caused her to be stressed and emotionally exhausted. Hala said, “I began to feel useless. I worked so hard for a diploma and it was put to waste.”

Hala then found hope when she discovered JEFE and enrolled in the hospitality program funded by Drosos Foundation. JEFE provided her with soft skills she needed to work in any hospitality position. She also began to learn the technical skills needed to work in a restaurant and now feels that she can work in any position inside of any restaurant.

Hala not only learned the technical and soft skills needed to work in a restaurant, but she also gained confidence in doing such. Hala’s instructors bragged about her ability to learn quickly. This positive encouragement gave Hala the confidence she needed to find a job. Hala not only learned the skills she needed, but she said she learned how to be a better version of herself. Hala said she now feels confident to accomplish anything that comes her way.

After Hala’s training, JEFE provided her with a job working at Paul Café and Restaurant preparing the various displays shown throughout the cafe.

Hala became passionate about her work and loves her new job. She loves getting the opportunity to work and communicate with people from all over the world and she is enjoying using her creative skills to prepare all of the displays inside of the restaurant.

Hala said she has found the meaning to life. When talking about her plan in the future, Hala said, “If I work hard enough, I want to become a manager of a restaurant. Or possibly own my own restaurant. Without JEFE I don’t believe I would be this optimistic about my future.” With the support of her family and JEFE, Hala has become an example to women around the world to follow their passion. Hala is proud of her job and is excited to continue her career.

Shatha Al Qurashi, JEFE’s Alumna.

Shatha Al Qurashi, JEFE’s Alumna.

Shatha Al Qurashi

Facing a difficult job market, many young university graduates experience that obtaining their degree does not necessarily equal finding a job. Amongst the many struggling to find opportunities to make a living, one was Shatha Al Qurashi (24 years) from Ajloun. For her, the solution was a job training program. In about one year, she went from being unemployed to becoming her own boss.

After graduating with an accounting diploma from Balqaa Applied University, Shatha was looking forward to find a job that would enable her to provide for her parents; a housewife and a retired father from Ausara- Ajloun, as well as her 14 siblings. After 18 months of resultless searches for a job, she began to lose hope.

Fortunately, she stumbled upon an advertisement for a garment assembly line course for women in Ajloun. Offered jointly by UNDP and JEFE under the “Youth Employment Generation Programme in Arab Transition Countries”, the course mission extended beyond training, and promised to facilitate actual job placement for all participating trainees.

Curious about this opportunity, Shatha decided to give it a chance, despite the fact that she had no experience in sewing or garment assembly. By the end of the two-month program, Shatha obtained the practical training needed to become a garment assembly line professional. According to her own testimony, she quickly “started to love sewing and the whole garment industry”. As a part of the program, she was also trained in leadership and entrepreneurial skills, and she asked herself: “Why should I stop at working in a factory? I am capable of becoming my own boss”. Her goal was to start up a business that would allow her to not only make money to support her family, but also help other women by employing them.

Less than a year later, she opened up her own tailoring workshop in Ebeen, a vibrant area in downtown Ajloun. Her workshop is gaining a posi- tive reputation in the local market for its quality production, and she has already signed several production agreements.

Shatha’s vision for the future of her business includes buying more sewing machines and increasing her workforce to 15 female employees. She even envisages herself opening up her own factory in the future. In the meantime, she strives to be a source of inspiration for local women, underlining that with hard work, dreams can be realized.


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Jordan Cycles Into Business Adventures

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Used bikes arrive in Jordan, shipped from the United States. (Photo courtesy Wheels of Change) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

AMMAN, Jordan, June 1, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Malia Asfour, Jordan Tourism Board director for North America, has inspired travel professionals from across the United States to help rural communities in Jordan by donating used bicycles, building bike shops and supporting tour guide training.

The plan was conceived around a dinner table about as far away from the sunny Middle Eastern country of Jordan as anyone could get – chilly Anchorage, Alaska.

In September 2016, a small group of travel professionals, in Anchorage for the annual Adventure Travel World Summit, gathered for dinner.

At the table that night was Keith Sproule, executive director of A&K Philanthropy, associated with the American luxury travel agency Abercrombie & Kent with its global network of 52 offices.

Also at the table was Dan Austin, founder of Austin Adventures and the nonprofit Wheels of Change that began donating bikes and operational skills to remote communities in Africa in 2010.

Muna Haddad was there. She serves as director of the Jordan-based social enterprise Baraka, whose mission is to support sustainable tourism while conserving and protecting cultural heritage and natural resources.

They listened intently as Asfour told how Jordan is seeing an increasing interest in cycling, but currently only the affluent can afford to own a bike. In rural areas bikes are very scarce.

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Starting at the basalt ruins of the Decapolis of Um Qais overlooking the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan Trail heads down towards the Arab Dam. (Photo courtesy Jordan Trail) Posted for media use

Asfour explained that Jordan is actively building partnerships with adventure travel companies, introducing new cycling itineraries and mapping out adventurous bike trails nationwide, including the newly completed Jordan Trail, which runs the entire length of the country, 650 kilometers, from Um Qais in the north to Aqaba in the south.

Once the idea of bikes for Jordan took hold of their imaginations, the people in this core group around the Anchorage dinner table began to reach out to other tourism professionals for support.

They received commitments from the travel insurance company World Nomads through its online philanthropy project Footprint Network, which agreed to help provide funding.

Tourism Cares, the nonprofit, philanthropic arm of the travel and tourism industry, also committed funds to help establish community bicycle enterprises in Jordan.

Jordan suffers from a high unemployment rate, officially at 15 percent. Residents of remote villages often do not have the transportation they need to reach employment and educational opportunities.

To overcome these problems, the tourism professionals plan to establish two bike shops in Um Qais Village at one end of the Jordan Trail and in Feynan.

Used bikes are being shipped to Jordan from the United States. The shipping containers will be repurposed as bike rental, sales and repair shops.

Each shop will include a bike tour component, serving as a starting point for local bike tours. Four people from Um Qais are now being trained as tour guides.

The new bike shops can provide steady employment for up to eight people, and will give others the means to travel farther for jobs or school, to reach their livestock, or have better access to health care.

This project will tie into the Jordan Trail initiative, enabling locals and visitors to bike between villages along the trail.

In December 2016, four months after the plan was conceived in Alaska, the first container of 260 mountain bikes, spare parts and tools organized by Wheels of Change departed Billings, Montana. It was bound for Feynan, Jordan in the Dana Biosphere Reserve with its historic ruins and ecolodge on the Jordan Trail.

The Jordan Tourism Board has committed to securing duty import exemptions for the shipping containers full of bikes

On April 26, 2017, the first container was officially opened. Present for the festivities were Andy Austin and Corey Meyer, two Austin Adventures guides assigned to do much of the mechanical training, along with Muna Haddad of Baraka, who will be the on-ground project manager.

Haddad and her staff will work with the beneficiary communities, investing in setting up the shops, conducting training, overseeing facilities and handling the logistics of ground transport into and around Jordan.

A second container of 412 mountain bikes, spare parts and wheels sent by A&K Philanthropy in partnership with Working Bikes in Chicago was shipped on March 13. It is scheduled to arrive on or about May 28th in Madaba, central Jordan.

Baraka will help set up another bike shop in Madaba as well as a bike share program at Petra University, making it the first bicycle-friendly campus in Jordan.

There is a recycle and reuse component to the venture built in from the start to keep donated bikes from ending up in a landfill.

Once all of the elements are in place, the shops are designed to be sustainable, paying for the costs of resupplying their stock of bikes with money earned through the sales and repair of bikes and the rental of bikes for tours.

Another positive element to the bike shop operation is its mission to give back to the community. After all wages and business expenses are paid, the remaining funds are set aside to fund local charitable projects.

“It’s beautiful to see an idea come to life,” posted Haddad on Facebook. “This is how we change the world, one idea at a time and a lot of hard work in between.”

This project was showcased at the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s AdventureNEXT Near East, held from May 15 to 17 on the shore of the Dead Sea in Jordan, the first event of its kind to highlight adventure travel in the Near East.

Sproule presented the bike donation initiative at the conference to demonstrate how such strategic partnerships can successfully benefit grassroots development and tourism, helping to create new skills and business opportunities.


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Jordan’s Refugees Must Drink

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By Sunny Lewis

AMMAN, Jordan, March 24, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Jordan, one of the world’s driest countries, is dumping much of its water into the sand – allowing 76 billion liters a year to flow from broken pipes, according to an assessment by the nonprofit aid organization Mercy Corps.

“By one estimate, the amount of water lost nationwide every year could satisfy the basic needs of 2.6 million people, or more than a third of Jordan’s current population. It is a tragedy of waste,” mourns the report, “Tapped Out: Water Scarcity and Refugee Pressures in Jordan.

Published in 2014, the report outlines urgent needs and provides key recommendations to guide institutional donor efforts and policies, advisories that are even more urgent today as distressed refugees from war-torn Syria surge across the border into northern Jordan.

Since the onset of the Syrian crisis five years ago, Jordan has borne the impact of this massive Syrian refugee influx. Today, those refugees account for about 10 percent of the kingdom’s population of 6.3 million, placing severe pressure on its water resources at a difficult economic period.

The Mercy Corps report quotes former deputy prime minister of Jordan Marwan al-Muasher, who warns, “Water scarcity is an existential threat to Jordan.”

An irrigation canal in Jordan, where groundwater levels are falling a meter each year. (Photo courtesy Global Freshwater Initiative)

An irrigation canal in Jordan, where groundwater levels are falling a meter each year. (Photo courtesy Global Freshwater Initiative)

Based on interviews conducted in three northern governorates in Jordan – Amman, Mafraq, and Irbid, the areas taking the greatest number of Syrian refugees – the Mercy Corps report asks donors to invest in long-term infrastructure development, strengthen government agencies and address the nexus of conflict and conservation.

A team of Mercy Corps engineers is working to rebuild the aging water system so that both Jordanian and Syrian refugee families will have enough clean water to stay healthy. Their work has already improved access to clean water for 500,000 people in Jordan.

Ghassan “Gus” Hazboun, Mercy Corps’ Water Engineering Director, said last July that in Jordan’s northern areas the leakage can be up to 70 percent of the water that flows through the network. “So we have water that’s already been treated, already been pumped from the aquifer to far-away places, and then we lose that water in the network,” he said.

“The best thing we can do, the only way forward, is to treat the network – to fix any damage and spare the waste of water. Reclaiming that wasted water is better than finding a new source of water,” said Hazboun.

Mercy Corps started with two wells in the Zaatari refugee camp, and now has three wells there, one well in Azraq camp, and several projects in host communities.

“We recently developed a well near the border between Jordan and Syria,” said Hazboun. “The water comes here, to the water treatment and filter area. And now we are ready to build a new pump station, control building, and a 500-cubic-meter reservoir.”

“This infrastructure is very important for the northern areas, including the city of Mafraq. The water we are providing goes to all the houses and we are supplying everybody, both Jordanians and Syrians,” Hazboun explained.

The World Bank is working to increase Jordan’s water supply in a different way.

On Monday, the bank released an account of its efforts to help the Jordanian government restore ecosystems and improve people’s livelihoods in the Badia desert, which covers about 80 percent of the country.

The World Bank and the Global Environment Facility are collaborating on a US$3.3 million grant to help the government create opportunities for the nomadic Bedouin livestock breeders of the Badia and make them more resilient to climate change and water scarcity.

Through the Badia Ecosystem and Livelihoods Project, this work is focused in Mafraq and Ma’an, impoverished governorates in north and south Badia with diverse, fragile ecosystems, unique archaeology and ancient history.

Livelihoods Project partner National Center for Agriculture Research and Extension (NCARE) is establishing rangeland reserves and reservoirs of rainwater for animal drinking. A mandated rest period in the reserves is allowing endemic plants, gone for 20 years, to re-emerge.

The bank also is supporting “high-value, low-volume ecotourism” by working with the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) to establish an ecotourism corridor in Mafraq that is already attracting other donors.

The project is expanding ecotourism by strengthening RSCN’s Al Azraq wetlands reserve and the Shaumari wildlife reserve.

All this work and investment is crucially important to Jordan, one of the world’s most water-vulnerable countries, but more help is needed.

Struggling with low rainfall, limited surface water storage, excessive groundwater mining and high dependence on waters shared by neighboring countries, Jordan now must also provide drinking water to hundreds of thousands of refugees.

In view of ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, influential countries such as the United States should consider how to help the region’s vulnerable nations steer clear of destabilizing water crises, says Professor Steven Gorelick who teaches at Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences and is a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

“Jordan is a peaceful and generous country that has absorbed hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees,” Gorelick said in January. “The U.S. is not sufficiently helping that country deal with the consequent stress of inadequate water supply.”

Countries in the Middle East and North Africa are over-pumping groundwater, he said. In Jordan, where people depend on groundwater for 80 percent of their freshwater, levels are dropping three feet (one meter) each year, and will likely be depleted by 30 to 40 percent within the next 15 years.

“Refugee migrations from conflict-torn lands and global warming-related extreme weather will likely worsen the situation,” said Gorelick.

Gorelick heads the Stanford Woods Institute’s Global Freshwater Initiative, focused on developing a comprehensive national hydro-economic model to evaluate new supply options and demand strategies.

The initiative is coordinating the Jordan Water Project, an international, interdisciplinary research effort aimed at developing new approaches for analyzing strategies to enhance the sustainability of freshwater resources in Jordan and, ultimately, arid regions throughout the world.


Featured image: Refugee child draws water in Zaatari Refugee camp in northern Jordan. Coming from a country with sufficient supply of water however, Syrian refugees are adjusting to water scarcity, especially difficult for mothers and children. (Photo by European Commission) Creative commons license via Flickr
Header image: A view of Zaatari refugee camp, where at least 80,000 refugees live, is located 10 km east of Mafraq, Jordan, June 2014. (Photo by Dominic Chavez / World Bank) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Israel, Jordan, Palestine Unite for Jordan River

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By Sunny Lewis

TEL-AVIV, Israel, October 23, 2015 (Maximpact News) – The Jordan River, famous in story and song, unique in its natural wealth, is now threatened by excessive water diversion and contamination.

In this arid region torn by many differences and struggles, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from Israel, Jordan and Palestine are working together to restore the Jordan River – unity forged on the anvil of fear for their life-giving waterway.

The river flows 251 kilometres (156 miles) to the Dead Sea from sources in the Anti-Lebanon Mountains that divide Syria from Lebanon. Israel and the Palestinian territories border the river to the west, while the Golan Heights and Jordan lie to its east.

The Jordan River is an important water resource for Israel and for Jordan. Israel’s National Water Carrier, completed in 1964, delivers water from the Sea of Galilee to the Israeli coastal plain. Jordan receives water from Israel since the 1994 Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty through a pipeline from the Sea of Galilee.

Though the Jordan River is depleted and polluted, its water is desperately needed by migrants fleeing the Syrian civil war. Some 600,000 have settled in dry and water-scarce Jordan, including 150,000 that have made their home in Za’atari, the world’s second largest refugee camp.

Ecopeace Middle East, formerly Friends of the Earth Middle East, has been working with its NGO counterparts to ensure restoration of the river.

In June, the NGOs invited politicians and decision makers from the three countries to an international conference, “Planning for Our Shared Future: Public Release of NGO Regional Master Plan for Sustainable Development in the Jordan Valley.” Read full report here

There at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Dead Sea, Jordan under the patronage of the Jordanian Minister of Water Dr. Hazim al Nasser, the first-ever integrated regional NGO Master Plan for rehabilitation of the Jordan River was introduced.

“From a Palestinian perspective the Master Plan helps advance a two state solution with an independent Palestine prospering in the West Bank of the Jordan Valley due to full access and riparian rights to both water and land resources in the valley. All sides will gain when independence and integration lead to economic prosperity,” said Nader Khateeb, EcoPeace Middle East Palestinian co-director.

Government officials, too, participated. Ayoub Kara, Israel’s deputy minister of regional cooperation, told conference delegates, “The Jordan River is not a normal river. It is one of the most important rivers in the world. It is in the hearts of 100s of millions of people around the world. The project for developing the Jordan River is a responsibility not just for our region but for the whole world.”

“Agricultural, economic, rural and touristic projects as well help form a peaceful interaction,” said Kara. “We have to, today, find every way possible to protect and develop the natural treasures that God has given us, including the Dead Sea.”

“I call upon you to put politics aside so the cooperation will allow us to be able to enhance the environment and economy,” said Kara. “Our cooperation will be the secret to success.”

The conference marked the conclusion of a three-year program funded by the European Union. It gathered many high-level government officials from Jordan, Palestine and Israel, international diplomatic representatives, development agency representatives, and environmental experts to discuss the advancement of the program from planning to implementation.

The Master Plan was presented according to its seven strategic planning objectives:
  1. Pollution Control
  2. Sustainable Water Management and River Rehabilitation
  3. Sustainable Agriculture
  4. Jordan River Basin Governance
  5. Ecological Rehabilitation
  6. Sustainable Tourism and Cultural Heritage Development
  7. Urban and Infrastructure Development

The Master Plan identifies 127 specific regional and national projects or “interventions,” related to the strategic planning objectives, with a total investment value of US$4.58 billion through the year 2050.

The conference concluded with clear support from government representatives to continue the work presented in the Master Plan and to advance its interventions to secure sustainable development and prosperity in the Jordan Valley.

Mira Edelstein, Jordan River Projects Coordinator with EcoPeace Middle East, said the three governments are cooperating with the NGO efforts.

“The current turmoil makes regional cooperation at the government level even more difficult, yet there is work going on in a parallel basis,” she said, pointing to projects in all three countries.

In Palestine, Jericho is expanding the sewage network of the city.

In Israel, the Drainage Authority is conducting river bank rehabilitation work.

And the Jordan Valley Regional Council is completing a new lookout at the area of the proposed Jordan River Peace Park.

Government agencies in each of the three countries contributed much to the process of formalizing the Master Plan.

“The Jordan Valley Authority, has greatly contributed to the development of the Master Plan. Data collection and support with identifying projects would not have happened without their involvement, support and assistance,” said Edelstein.

The Jordanian Ministry of Municipal Affairs demonstrated the “political will to work with Israel and Palestine on water and environmental issues,” she said. The Ministry of Agriculture expressed its willingness to support the master plan.

Jordan’s Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Water and Irrigation both supported the consultants with data for the baseline study and report, the environmental status of the Valley, the sources of pollution and their measures to control and mitigate these impacts on the Jordan Valley.

At the June conference, Secretary General of the Jordan Valley Authority Eng. Saad Abu Hammour said in a statement, “The projects articulated in the master plan are important for Jordan, in particular those that deal with wastewater and solid waste management.”

Among the priorities of the Jordanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation is the implementation of these projects through donor agencies and the Jordanian government, said Hammour.

Funding negotiations are ongoing, said Edelstein of Ecopeace Middle East. “We are focused on an additional investment plan and moving forward a financial strategy. We will hold meetings in London, Brussels and Washington D.C. on financing issues,” she said.

The Palestinian Water Authority has repeatedly expressed support for the Master Plan project, and so have the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Planning, and the Ministry of Local Government and Local Councils, who are directly responsible for the Palestinian municipalities along the Jordan Valley.

Dr. Mohammed Hmaidi, CEO of the Palestinian Water Council said, “The Palestinian delegation came from five different governmental institutions and that shows, that just like Jordan and Israel, we are interested in this conference, its recommendations, and outcomes.”

“The Master Plan is in harmony with the Palestinian policies and expectations,” said Hmaidi. “We do have national strategies and plans, and the proposed interventions do not contradict with these plans and priorities. There are a number of initiatives that can be implemented as of tomorrow.”

In Israel, there already was a National Master Plan for the Israeli section of the River, so the Israelis were seeking acceptance of the regional vision.

Adi Ashkenazi, director of the Economic Research Division of Israel’s Ministry of Regional Cooperation, said, “The most important thing that we learned from what we saw here is the great willingness and the commitment of the people that came here from all parties – the Palestinians, the Jordanians, and also ours, our people in Israel – to rehabilitate this river.”

Edelstein said the most urgent need is funding for specific “interventions” that are identified in the Master Plan that can move forward immediately, needing about US$500 million.

“With the continued instability throughout the region, the Jordan Valley effort is a real ‘Marshal Plan’ effort that could be a model for regional integration for the whole region,” she said. “If we do not counter 50% youth unemployment in the Jordan Valley, we should not be surprised to see increased radicalization in the region.”


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: Boys enjoy a dip in the Jordan River as a break in a dusty, desert day. (Photo by Hannah Temple under Creative Commons license via Flickr)
Header image: The Jordan River is a muddy trickle near Jericho, near the Dead Sea. (Photo by Derek Winterburn under Creative Commons license via Flickr)