Fellows' Reflections: Jessie Wyatt

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The theme of the summer, and my time so far at Reclaim Childhood, has been the song Jeno Noto. If you haven't heard this song yet, it's a song popular among all our participants and its dance involves quietly gathering in the middle and then jumping up and screaming. The song at its essence is a unifier. Just as the song involves both moments of quiet gathering and pure chaos, so too has my time with Reclaim Childhood. In our quiet moments, we gather as staff and coaches and discuss topics ranging from our hopes and dreams and our lives as women to how we wax our legs and our favorite foods. Just as Jeno Noto instructs, we take the quiet moments to gather back to the middle, recenter and continue to build one unified force of diverse, powerful women with different perspectives and different ideas. 

In our chaotic moments, we navigate screaming girls, water balloons, late bus drivers, and wild dancing to both Jeno Noto and the Cupid Shuffle. It is in these moments, as we're screaming, running, dancing, and laughing that we renew our energy, drive forward together, and take inspiration from the girls around us. 

I have found that a necessary balance has been created that makes each moment, quiet or chaotic, all the more special. This past week, we finished Coach Clinic -- a week-long program where we focus on solidifying our sports skills and continuing to be intentional about the safe environment we foster for our participants. Coach Clinic is a perfect example of how to strike a balance between quiet and chaos. In the mornings, we run around the gym, get a little too competitive, scream, laugh, and fight down to the last point. In the afternoons, we transition into community conversations about our program. Both the chaos of the morning and the quiet of the afternoon are necessary to making Reclaim Childhood the program that it is today. 

As I move forward with my time here, I'm looking forward to both the quiet and the chaos. I'm lucky to be surrounded by a strong community that, in our more serious discussions, forces me to be more thoughtful, more passionate, more intentional, and more aware of my surroundings. In our wild moments, we embrace the sweet chaos of spontaneous hikes, accepting an offer for tea, and the ever-honking horns of taxis. I'm confident that both the moments that I experience actively and passively will continue to provide more opportunities for growth, awareness, and fun. Looking forward to the coming year! 

Fellows' Reflections: Cassidy Lyon

I’ve only been in Jordan for 53 days and I can hardly fathom how to summarize my experience so far. It has been the craziest, busiest, most amazing two months — extra emphasis on the busy part. In these 53 days I have traveled to Karak, Dana Reserve, Wadi Hesa, Wadi Numeireh, Wadi As-Seer, Fuheis, and the Dead Sea. I have become part of a strategy team for a sustainable farm organization (Wadi Vera), which has included building their website and planning a 35-person breadmaking workshop and dinner; participated in a cleanup and art project at a local spring (which was featured in the community newspaper); played in a band for a fundraiser at Café de Paris and Art at the Park; saw my favorite band play (El Morraba3); and have overall met an amazing network of local and expat friends.

I'm working as a Growth Hacker fellow at Bayt.com, one of the largest tech companies in the Middle East. I work on the Marketing and Communications team, where I redesign parts of the website for optimized user experience, conduct data analysis reports to improve our marketing strategies to our different MENA audiences, and contribute to overall marketing strategies with video, ad, and other campaign ideas. I'm loving it so far and work with an amazing team! I hope to write about my work in a future blog post, but for now I'd like to share about my overall experience as a fellow living in Amman. I thought the best way to do this would be by sharing some photos of my time here so far! 

This picture is of is my rooftop at “Rainbow House.” We’re a 10 person house in Jabel Amman with both locals and expats from all over the world. I’m lucky to have landed in this house! It’s where I have met all of my friends and network.

 

 

 

 

This picture is of is my rooftop at “Rainbow House.” We’re a 10 person house in Jabel Amman with both locals and expats from all over the world. I’m lucky to have landed in this house! It’s where I have met all of my friends and network.

 

 

 

 

On my third day in Jordan, I took a trip to the Dead Sea (with Rainbow House people of course) and Wadi Hesa, which is where this picture is from. Driving along the Dead Sea Highway is one of my favorite things to do here. The Wadis here are amazing as well. We took a dip in the Dead Sea first, covered ourselves in the mud, washed off in a waterfall across the street, and then headed for the hike.

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This picture is from the cleanup and art project that we did in Fuheis. One of the local springs that has been used for generations by the families nearby has accumulated hundreds of pounds of trash. We spent a few days cleaning out all of the trash and using the broken glass to create this tree by the water. We then built a retaining wall to create a special area for trash and labeled it in Arabic. When we returned the next week, people had used the designated trash area and kept the spring clean — success! Many families brought us food during the project and the local news organization even took pictures of our work to feature us in their neighborhood newsletter.

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The picture above is from my trip to Karak where we got to explore the old castle there. The pictures below are from our two-day camping trip to Dana Reserve. Dana has been one of my favorite places to visit in Jordan (despite the four hours we had to wait at the South Bus station).

Below are some pictures taken from Wadi Vera! I planned a bread-making workshop and dinner with the founder and owner of Wadi Vera. We had 37 people attend for our first event. We have events like this to serve as additional income for the family that is living on the land as well as provide funds for the various land restoration projects.

These pictures are from our trip to the Dead Sea and Wadi Numeireh and to the town of Wadi As-Seer, where there are Byzantine ruins and the most renowned figs in Jordan.

The last picture is my favorite staircase in Amman and is luckily just up the street from me, next to my favorite little restaurant where I can eat brunch for just 1.20 JD!

2017-2018 Fellowship Class Announced

We are thrilled to announce our fellowship class for next year, which includes 8 fellows working with 6 partner organizations. We are very excited about these partnerships and look forward to seeing our fellows thrive in these positions!

  • Tonia Bartlett - Elm International School - Alexandria, Egypt
  • Katherine Butler-Dines - Experience Morocco  Casablanca, Morocco
  • Lilly Crown - Collateral Repair Project - Amman, Jordan
  • Laura Humes - Elm International School - Alexandria, Egypt
  • Jordan Lee - Social and Economic Survey Research Institute (SESRI) - Doha, Qatar
  • Cassidy Lyon - Bayt.com - Amman, Jordan
  • Marie Panchesson - Bayt.com - Amman, Jordan
  • Jessie Wyatt - Reclaim Childhood - Amman, Jordan

See our Current Fellows page for more info about these fellows!

Fellows' Reflections: Timothy Loh

The following is a reflection written by our current fellow, Timothy Loh, who is working with the Collateral Repair Project (CRP) in Amman, Jordan for the 2016-2017 fellowship year. 

These stories are not just FYI

“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanise. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”
-- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Danger of a Single Story

I am an aspiring anthropologist and I love stories. Narrative holds such power to dislodge and remake our assumptions, to give us another perspective on life, and to open a window, even for just a second, into the rich inner worlds of other people. In graduate school, some of the best books I read were chock full of stories that challenged hegemonic thinking about a range of different issues. Diana Allan’s Refugees of the Revolution, about Palestinian refugees in Shatila camp in Lebanon, forced me to rethink what I understood about the right of return. Farha Ghannam’s nuanced ethnography of manhood and masculinity in Egypt, Live and Die Like a Man, rejected dangerous stereotypes of the violent, backward, misogynistic Arab man. Salim Tamari’s work on the life of Wasif Jawhariyyeh, a Christian musician who lived in Jerusalem at the turn of the 20th century with Muslim and Jewish neighbours, deconstructed the prevalent but mistaken notion that Islam and Christianity have been in a state of enmity since time immemorial. I also saw the power of stories firsthand outside the classroom in a retreat program I was involved in called ESCAPE, which aimed to help first-year and transfer students transition to Georgetown. Student leaders gave talks about their experiences before college, during their first year of college, and as a senior in college, and participants would break into small groups after and share openly with each other about how college has been for them. Giving my talk as a senior about how difficult adjusting to college had been was a cathartic, even therapeutic, experience, and the talks of my fellow leaders revealed surprising things about their lives that I would never have guessed had I met them anywhere else.

Here at the Collateral Repair Project, I’ve been given the immense privilege of listening to the stories of the refugees whom I serve and with whom I work. Every Wednesday, I sit in on the diwaniyyeh, the hour-long men’s support group session (that often stretches to an hour and a half) during which men from our community come together to talk about their struggles, which make my problems seem tiny by comparison. The regular feedback we have had is that the men truly appreciate the diwaniyyeh and that they leave feeling better than they had when they arrived—the very act of sharing their stories brings them some measure of peace. Twice I’ve had to hold back tears as I hear my coworker present to visitors to our center his story of escaping Syria with his family after his daughter was injured in a bomb attack by the government. Recently, an American couple came to Amman to volunteer with CRP and to document refugee stories for a local television station they were affiliated with in their home state, and I heard yet more stories of escape and pain from Iraq and Syria from our beneficiaries. One of them had his entire immediate family resettled in another country but had been waiting for years to be reunited with them due to administrative and political delays. Tell our stories, they told the couple. Tell your government that this is what we are going through. Tell them what we want because they’re not listening to us.

I hear these stories almost every day. Then, at 5 pm, when work ends, I hop into a taxi and go back to my apartment in West Amman where my life after work and on the weekends is far removed from the refugee issue. This is also a privilege. The disjuncture between these two “lives” can be shocking at times and, to be honest, I am still trying to figure out how to reconcile them. Of this, though, I am sure: refugees are not there just to tell their stories. They tell their stories because they want something to change. In a sensitive 1997 article entitled “The Appeal of Experience; The Dismay of Images: Cultural Appropriations of Suffering in Our Times,” Arthur and Joan Kleinman critique the commodification of suffering, through which experiences of suffering are “remade, thinned out, and distorted.” I’ve seen a version of this process play out in the way that journalists and academics often reach out to CRP to interview our beneficiaries so they can better understand and depict “the refugee experience”—important work, of course—but those we serve are many times frustrated by that they have told their stories multiple times to various audiences but nothing seems to change. I am the last person to claim I have an answer to this dilemma, but as I continue on in the MENAR Fellowship, I hope to gain a deeper sense of how I can become a better steward of these stories that I’ve had the privilege—and responsibility—of hearing.

Application Info Session - Nov. 14 at 8 PM

Interested in applying to MENAR but want to learn more or have specific questions? 

MENAR will be holding an online information session for prospective applicants on Monday, November 14th at 8 pm EST. To join the session, follow this link and log in as "Guest." The session will last approximately one hour and will allow ample time for Q&A. 

2017-2018 Application is open!

Our application for 2017-2018 fellowship positions has been posted! Read all the details here. The application is open to current college seniors and recent graduates, and the deadline is Thursday, December 15, 2016 at midnight. Contact us with any questions.

We are very pleased to be working with four excellent partner organizations at this point: Bayt.com and Collateral Repair Project in Amman, Jordan; the Social and Economic Survey Research Institute (SESRI) in Doha, Qatar; and Endeavor, which has offices across the MENA region. Please continue to check back between now and the application deadline as additional positions may be posted.

New Partner: Collateral Repair Project

We are pleased to announce an amazing new partner organization for the 2016-2017 fellowship year, Collateral Repair Project:

Collateral Repair Project is a grassroots effort to bring much-needed assistance to refugees and other victims of war and conflict - those commonly referred to as "collateral damage." We seek to repair some of this damage and, through these efforts, foster peace and reconciliation. We are located in Amman, Jordan - temporary home to hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian refugees.

Interested in working with them? Our application for upcoming fellowships will be open within the coming week! Check back here soon for updates.

2015-2016 Application Open!

We are pleased to announce that the application for fellowship positions during the 2015-2016 year are now open. The MENAR Fellowship Program will be facilitating placements with Endeavor, a global non-profit that is leading the high impact entrepreneurship movement around the world. For more information on fellowship requirements and how to apply, click here. We look forward to receiving your application!

New Organizational Name and Website

As you know, a group of young Princeton alumni came together in 2011 to found a post-graduation fellowship organization that would enable graduates of Princeton and other universities to live and work in the Middle East and North Africa for a year. Originally operating under the name “Princeton in the Middle East” and with administrative support from Princeton in Africa, we placed our first fellow (Tal Eisenzweig, Princeton Class of 2012) in Morocco during the 2012-2013 year.

In order to better reflect the fact that we are not affiliated with Princeton University, we have recently changed our name to the Middle East and North Africa Regional (MENAR) Fellowship Program, and we plan to register as an independent 501(c)3 organization in the coming months. The word “menar” means “illuminated” in Arabic, and reflects our goal of opening the door for insight into the region’s cultures and promoting cross-cultural exchange.

Despite no longer having the word Princeton in our name, we remain inspired by the other “Princeton in” organizations (Princeton in Asia, Princeton in Africa, and Princeton in Latin America) and we continue to draw on the extensive Princeton alumni network to facilitate placements and support fellows. Our fellowship opportunities are open to top graduates of all U.S. universities.

The MENAR Fellowship Program is proud to announce that its second fellowship position is currently underway. Rachel Webb, Princeton Class of 2014, began her fellowship in August 2014 with Endeavor in Dubai. We look forward to sharing updates from her experience with you in the near future. In addition, applications for 2015-2016 fellowship positions will be accepted beginning in October.