A House of Hope
English language classes are giving refugees a chance to rebuild their lives in Jordan
A hum of noise streams out from the top floor of a traditional looking building in central Amman. Full of men, women and children of all ages and nationalities, from Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, everyone is frantically trying to find a space for their chair before class begins.
Hassan, 32, a refugee from Somalia stands at the front of the crowded classroom writing up the names of body parts in preparation for the evenings lesson.
A civil engineering graduate, Hassan has lived in Jordan for the last nine years after he was forced to flee civil war in Somalia.
“Where I come from there was lots of pressure for young men to join up with militias and they didn’t take no as an answer.”
After being selected for a scholarship to at Jordan University for Science and Technology in Irbid in 2010, five years later, when he graduated, he found himself unable to return to Somalia and suddenly found himself living a life he didn’t foresee.
“I wanted to do something, become somebody, use what I had learnt at university to build a future, but here in Jordan as part of the non-Syrian refugee community we are not allowed to work.”
Despite this, Hassan was determined not to become someone who just sits at home and through mutual friends he found the House of Hope.
Initially set up as a local association to help orphans and disadvantaged children, the House of Hope has since expanded its building space in central Amman to run community based educational courses in coordination with local NGOs such as JOHUD and Sawiyan.
Advocating and supporting marginalized refugees in Jordan, Hassan immediately found a purpose as an English language teaching volunteer with Sawiyan and has since also branched off to do informal private lessons for some students to earn a little bit off cash.
“As part of the Somali community here in Jordan, I know from firsthand experience how difficult life can be. I wanted to change that and make life easier for others, especially children who are growing up as refugees in Amman.
“Refugees don’t have the money to attend the institutions that give classes such as English and computer courses. But at the same time, they are the most vulnerable people who need the support of these services. As a graduate I wanted to give back to the community.”
Hassan’s experience as a volunteer English teacher also led him to getting in contact with UNHCR, so to present some of the challenges that he was regularly hearing from his students.
“For Somalis in particular, people assume that we speak Arabic, but we have our own language and dialect, so it is difficult for some people to understand what their rights as refugees are.”
Now Hassan has become an official representative for the Somali community. A group made up of eight elected members who meet with UNHCR representatives once a month to get answers to their most pressing questions. From talking about specific legal issues, giving feedback on registration processes and advocating for places to open for non-Syrian employment and resettlement, Hassan believes that this is an important channel to create change.
“I’ve been in Jordan nine years. I feel like I’ve spent what are supposed to be my most productive years as a refugee. But I’m determined not to let that stop me. I believe I can be influential and make something of myself, to contribute to this community here in Jordan. We just all need to work together.”