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The Webdah School and Family Center, Amman, Jordan=image("/projects/webdah/noura_marianne.jpg","Noura and Marianne
Everyone agreed it was too dangerous to go to Baghdad in the summer of 2006, dangerous for Americans and dangerous for their Iraqi friends. I traveled to Jordan instead--my best option since it was the destination of some 100,000 Iraqis every month according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. (NY Times, Nov. 22, 2006) I was very interested to see what programs were in place for this exile population.
Quite by accident one day, I stumbled into a Melkite Catholic Church in the Weibdah neighborhood of Amman and into the office of The Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center and Father Nabil Haddad. He told me he wanted to offer support and assistance to the tens of thousands of Iraqis living in exile in Amman, and was struggling to imagine how to do that. I told him I was looking for ways to engage children in ICAE’s art exchange. What serendipity that a woman with a project would meet a man looking for a project. Within an hour of our meeting, he asked me to join him in starting-up a small arts-based school program for out of school children. I had $75 donated to ICAE by a local Brownie Troop; Fr. Nabil matched the funds, and the project was launched. All children would be welcome, regardless of religion or country of origin.
Within a week, Fr. Nabil had arranged for a team of volunteers to join us in cleaning out three rooms in an old monastery --attached to the church, but behind it. What a beautiful location, for a school, with views of the old city and a patio with large palm trees. We swept and washed and shoveled up thirty years of debris. We hauled in the ancient wooden desks--double, with an attached bench--and opened the program on the Following Sunday. Sander a young 20-something Iraqi artist and Amjad, the father of two small children, agreed to be the teachers. By the end of September more than thirty children were attending; an sometimes as many as fifty children would show up.
ICAE was involved in the school project until September, 2007. At that point, Iraqi children were finally allowed to enroll in Jordanian schools, making the mandate for our small project much less immediate.
[Webdah School Prospectus] (PDF)