Stories from Jordan

By Phillip Jordan
Habitat for Humanity International writer/editor




View a slideshow of Habitat’s work in Ghor al Safi.


My greatest source of joy in working at Habitat is sitting down with families who partner with Habitat and listening to their stories. Those stories can motivate.

Most recently, I had a chance to talk with partner families in Jordan, alongside Habitat photographer Ezra Millstein and Habitat Jordan program officer Mohammed Malkawi. During the trip, we spent two days in the town of Ghor al Safi. Just below the community is the famed Dead Sea, with its shockingly salty water. Behind Ghor al Safi, rocky cliffs rise toward the sky.

Many of the men here find jobs in potash fertilizer factories along the Dead Sea. Others join the military. Most of the rest work the dry, dusty ground to grow tomatoes, one of the few crops that grow well in the environment.

The most common challenge we found in Jordan was simply a lack of decent housing that left extended families far too crowded in small homes. Habitat Jordan works in partnership with local community groups to help families build new houses, as well as to renovate or expand existing homes.

In Ghor al Safi, we talked with several families who had partnered with Habitat. For each, a new home had a very personal meaning.

For 30-year-old Azeaz Khleifat, it meant he could finally move his wife and four children out of the house he had been born in — and that he has been afraid to live in for much of his life. The old house has cracks throughout its walls, a crumbling foundation and holes in the ceiling. “I wanted us to move into our new house as soon as possible,” he said. “I wanted us to move into a healthy, safe place.”

For Abeer Esheabat, her family’s Habitat house — built in 2007 with help from two Women Build Global Village teams from the United States and Saudi Arabia — meant she and her husband, Tisear, no longer had to sleep with 18 people under one roof. “That house was so full, and so narrow, that we had to line up together to sleep,” Abeer said. “We had to keep our shoes at our heads at night because there was no room for them elsewhere.”

For Ibrehem and Hweeml Mradat, expanding their house nearly four years ago meant they could remain next-door to Ibrehem’s brother. It also meant more room for their own growing family. Two days after construction concluded, Hweeml returned to the house with the couple’s first child, Hala. “It was a special feeling,” Hweeml said, “because I had two new things I was proud of: a new baby and a new home.”

As we talked with these families, sharing countless cups of mint tea and Turkish coffee, I could think of a couple things I was proud of, too. NothingI had done. It was really just pride in being associated with the families we met in Jordan. Whatever kudos any full-time Habitat staffer gets really springs from the families we serve — they are the ones willing to partner, to sweat, to create a better home for the ones they love.