Cultural Exchange

Connecting People Across Cultures

In March 2019, staff and volunteers from refugee organisations in Bristol and Bath visited Jordan with Bridges, in order to learn about the lives and experiences of refugees before they are resettled in this country.

A visit to the UNHCR office in Amman enabled the group to learn about the processes refugees go through in order to register and receive support in Jordan, as well as learning about the ways that the UN prepares them if they are being resettled to the UK. A visit to a refugee family living in the capital city gave insight into what waiting for resettlement looks like in reality. And a day spent at Azraq refugee camp in the north of Jordan gave them the opportunity to hear first hand experiences of living in the camp and to hear about people's hopes and dreams for the future. 

Other meetings enabled the group to meet refugees from a number of different countries and talk to them about their experiences of living in Jordan, and culture and language training sessions deepened their understanding of Arabic culture. It wasn't all hard work though, and the group managed to enjoy some down time visiting the sights of Amman, the Dead Sea, Mount Nebo, and the historical city of Petra!

Here are some of the reflections and insights from those who went on the trip:

'I learned so much...I learned that Jordanians have a rich cultural history, but that there is a huge wealth gap that (certainly at first glance) seems to be worsening. The country seems torn between wanting to support refugees and not knowing how to do so without compromising themselves. I learned that the lives of refugees in Jordan are very varied, and while life is difficult for all of them, life is particularly tough for those in the camps and for those who have no prospect whatsoever of resettlement (i.e. the vast majority). The sense of inevitable hopelessness amongst some of the people we met was clear, and it was easy to see how challenging it is for so many of them to live ‘in-limbo’. Not being able to go home, not being able to integrate and not being able to resettle leaves families stuck in a bleak middle ground. I could see how an individual might lose their sense of self, their motivation and any sense of hope for the future.

I have a new perspective on the scale of the refugee crisis and on the nature of the problems facing the people affected. I feel like within the space of a week I have broadened my knowledge of the situation hugely, and feel driven to share that learning and to review the way that our resettlement support works. I have been moved emotionally and am even more motivated to keep learning and to keep supporting and empowering refugees and asylum seekers who have endured the kinds of experiences and conditions we learned about.' Sally

'One of my highlights was being able to see the real lived experiences of refugees in Jordan. I really enjoyed meeting people from different backgrounds who are living in different conditions which gave a good rounded picture of the situation for refugees living there.' Jenny

 'The UNHCR days were directly related to my work and I found the experience invaluable - both practically in learning how resettlement families are identified but also emotionally when we saw the families in their homes, including the family in the refugee camp. These were powerful memories of what is lost through war. I also loved the meals and I enjoyed the culture and historical aspects. And the Dead Sea and Petra were amazing experiences too!' Anne

'I learnt a lot more about the situation from several perspectives that I didn’t know I’d be able to. I feel more equipped with knowledge and experience of the culture, language and politics in Jordan to educate others about the refugee crisis over there. This trip motivated me to try to carry out some research in this area.' Grace

Bridges for Communities is hoping to run a similar trip in the spring of 2020 - if you are interested in participating or would like to receive more information, please email

 

In March 2018, Bridges for Communities facilitated a visit to Jordan for 9 students and 2 teachers from Kings College in Taunton.

As well as connecting with students from the International Academy Amman (IAA), the trip involved learning about the refugee situation, floating in the Dead Sea, camping under the stars in Wadi Rum, and visiting the legendary city of Petra!

Check out the video:

 

Here's what the participants said about the trip:

"Thank you for facilitating such a memorable trip, which gave all of us the opportunity to broaden our horizons and learn a considerable amount. I gained a great deal from the exchange, most importantly a deeper understanding of Arabic culture and Middle Eastern history. Previously, my knowledge of the Middle East was limited and I often found news regarding the region ungraspable. The information the exchange provided me with is invaluable and something that I am extremely grateful for."

"It was an absolute pleasure to meet so many people and listen to their stories. The pupils from IAA were genuinely lovely and I am lucky to have been able to build the foundations of a friendship with three girls in particular. I hope that those friendships will continue to grow… Thank you for introducing the nine of us to a truly special country; I very much wish to return one day."

Would you like your students to have this experience? 

Bridges for Communities would love to facilitate cultural exchange trips and learning tours for other secondary schools in the UK. If you would like to find out more about how your school could do this, please get in touch with Dan Green:

TBT/ Throwback Thursday... For the next four weeks, we will share a story from a Bridges event from over the years. This week we want to share this video of the Young Bridge Builders exchange trip from 2013. 

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