Jordan -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1
Fadiyeh al Maradat helping to build.
Fadiyeh al Maradat and family and neighbors.
Fadiyeh's family twisting wires to build roof supports.
The Housing Need
Jordan is a small country of approximately 6 million people. Jordan benefits from relative political stability and one of the most educated populace in the Arab world, but war and turmoil in the region have weakened the already fragile economy. Jordan has no oil and inadequate supplies of water. The vast majority of Jordanians live on less than $5,000 USD per year.
Unemployment is high and on the increase, especially in the rural villages, where agriculture is a major source of employment, but is seasonal and low paid. Extended families survive by combining the income of two or three members.
In the villages, families tend to have many children and, out of tradition and economic necessity, extended families live together under one roof. It is not uncommon for 12 to 15 family members to share a small two-room house.
Overcrowded living conditions such as these endanger the health and wellbeing of occupants. The lack of privacy increases family tension and makes it difficult for children to sleep and study. Women struggle to cook in makeshift kitchens with dirt floors. Without proper food storage cabinets, pests and rodents are a constant challenge. Unsanitary toilet facilities bring additional health risks.
Jordan is also facing an urban housing crisis. Seventy percent of the population lives in cities, 63 percent in Amman, Zarqa, and Irbid alone. Refugee inflows, continued migration to the cities, and the high level of urban poverty have left large numbers of families without adequate shelter. These families suffer from a variety of problems resulting from overcrowding and poor-quality housing, including unsanitary conditions, sexual abuse, and social alienation. Inadequate housing fosters a sense of helplessness and marginalization among the poor, most of whom believe that they are powerless to improve their living environment.
Habitat for Humanity Jordan
Habitat for Humanity Jordan (HFHJ) began its work in 2001 and is currently working in four rural villages, where the average family consists of seven children. HFHJ is also working in urban communities in the Greater Amman area. Houses are made of cement blocks, the largest measuring 55 sq. meters. Families contribute an average of $1,800 USD towards their own house, through voluntary labor and donated materials. Each new house brings greater opportunities for families to lead safe, healthy and productive lives.
Each house also represents an opportunity to build relationships across cultures, religions and classes and thus to build peace as the houses themselves become symbols of cooperation and compassion. In the words of a Habitat homeowner in the Greater Amman area, “When I look at this house, I will remember all of the people from around the world who built it and I will remember that there are good people all over the world, in every country.” In a region where relations are often fragile, building houses together creates a spirit of solidarity and a new understanding between families, their neighbors and volunteers from around the world.
Habitat Jordan works to instill a sense of partnership and common purpose in its program. This is borne out through work with partner organizations and through numerous volunteer opportunities. Habitat Jordan hosts groups of international volunteers, as well as local school and corporate groups to build houses with homeowner families. For many volunteers, the experience has been profound. As one participant recounts: “When I left Jordan, I took with me a deeper sense of humanity, much stronger than the walls I helped build half a world away.”
Real Life Story
Fadiyeh was born in the village of Ghor al Safi 68 years ago. Like all of the villagers, her family lived in a goat-hair tent. They were tomato farmers and made yogurt from sheep’s milk and baked bread on an open fire. Fadiyeh cherishes the memory of sharing these things with her neighbors and extended family.
During the 1980’s the villagers moved out of tents and into cement block houses. With modernization and the move to houses there were some real improvements: dedicated spaces for livestock separate from people, increased privacy, running water and electricity. But raising the walls of houses also raised barriers to genuine community, for which adjustments were not made. The intimacy and sharing that were once a natural part of the open air lifestyle of tent life decreased.
At about 4’8” tall Fadiyeh is a remarkable presence. Wearing a black work dress and head scarf, she watched eagerly as the build crew of local builders and volunteers from HFH Metro Denver constructed a column, walls, windows, doors and a roof to form her home. She welcomed the volunteers warmly and greeted everyone with a smile, wishing them strength. The build was a fast paced and lively event.
The family was inspired by the build. They feel that they have gained both a new home and a revived spirit of cooperation. Fadiyeh and her neighbor, Bostaneh, said they want to cooperate more with their community to ensure everyone’s wellbeing. HFHJ sees opportunities such as volunteer builds as valuable parts of the community building process. Our house building projects can give communities a needed opportunity to work together constructively and cooperatively.
Location: Middle East
Climate: Mostly Arid desert; rainy season in the West (November to April)
Population: 5.7 million
Economy: Industries include phosphate mining, petroleum refining, cement, potash, light manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, tourism and agriculture
Government: Constitutional monarchy
Religions: Islam, Christianity
Languages: Arabic (official), English