Pizza provides purpose for Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

Even though St Joseph’s Church in Jabal Amman may not seem the most obvious place where to eat a pizza or fresh pasta, many Italian traditional dishes are prepared by Iraqi refugees in a small kitchen inside the Pastoral Centre.  

Mar Yousef’s Pizza is a project started in 2017 and implemented by Habibi Valtiberina Association (HAVA), thanks to the support of the French Embassy, in order to help refugees rebuild their lives in Jordan. Due to the fact that non-Syrian refugees, including Iraqis, cannot acquire work permits while in Jordan, the centre run by the Italian NGO focuses on delivering vocational trainings to refugee youthsprovidinthem with useful skills for their future endeavors.  

Ledin, 19, is just one of the refugees who the centre has been helping. After fleeing his home in Qaraqosh, Iraq, after the town was taken over by armed militias in 2014, he describes how the centre has been a lifeline for him especially over the last year.  

“Here you feel like you are part of a larger family. It has helped us socialize with a community we aren’t used to; it has helped break down barriers. 

In March 2020, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the centre had to close for a couple of months due to lockdowns. With everyone stuck at home, they decided to start takeaway and delivery service for their supporters to ensure the continuation of the training programs.  And in December, through UNHCR support, they were finally able to purchase a van to assist with deliveries. 

The coronavirus pandemic made us start deliveries as people weren’t coming, so now we take it to their homes. This is almost like assistance to them because, they love the food so much”, jokes Ledin. 

A total of 27 Iraqi refugees are currently trained to be chefs and waiters at the Centre, receiving a reimbursement which helps them supporting their families. 

 Father Mario, HAVA’s country director, explains us how they are struggling with such hard time without losing hope. 

“It has not been easy to carry out all the activities, especially in a such difficult time”, said Father Mario, “but watching them growing up both professionally and personally is our greatest satisfaction. In our trainings, we receive also help from different Italian chefs who teach the beneficiaries, even in this hard time of pandemic, through digital platform”. 

Aydin, one of refugee who takes the orders and coordinates takeaway deliveries, says that every day he feels lucky in comparison to his other Iraqi refugee friends who haven’t been afforded the same opportunities. “This experience has been unique. As well as learning more about this area of work, I have had to learn English. I have been forced to interact with the world and people around me rather than just sitting at home like I was before.” 

Moving forward Ledin and Aydin hope that one day they will move and surely, they will be able to use what they have learnt at Mar Yousef’s Pastoral Center in a professional capacity in the final country of destination. With over 90,000 non-Syrians registered as refugees in Jordan, UNHCR is continuing to advocate for increased work opportunities to support more refugees to rebuild their lives.