The Jordanian ARU is led by Yarmouk University. The process of setting up the ARU started with the involvement of the Refugees, displaced persons and forced migration studies centre (RDBFMSC) at Yarmouk University and the NAWAFTH organization for training and sustainable development in Irbid. The two institutions helped to gather and communicate with several other Jordanian stakeholders (NGOs, community leaders, associations, government organization, academic institutions) and to reach refugees, immigrants and displaced people in Jordan. The team of the ARU is wide and distributed over Jordanian regions (North, Middle, and South) which is indeed an added value for the work of the Unit, but on the other hand it was a big challenge to find an appropriate date and time to invite them to Yarmouk University (YU), worsened by the spread of the COVID-19 in the country. The ARU is well connected with staff and members at the University, it was received positively and fit in the overall mission of the institution. The ARU is fully operational from September 2019, the first meetings with refugees were held in January 2020. Since all ARU members are highly qualified and experienced persons, their inputs have been very valuable for the project, for the definition of the vulnerability context and the design of the TAIS. Main task was indeed to get from them the highest amount of information possible.
The ARU in Jordan designed a TAIS focused on psychosocial support for refugees. The Psychosocial Refugee Support Forum (PRSF) aims to provide a structure that contributes to the well-being of individuals and prevents the need for medical support through non-clinical interventions. It aims at breaking barriers and creating connections, promoting awareness and understanding of the importance of psychosocial support (PSS) and sharing knowledge on approaches, research, practice, and policy that impact on the provision of support to vulnerable forcibly displaced people. The TAIS in Jordan aims at implementing psychosocial support through economic empowerment and promoting financial knowledge. Health awareness, legal awareness and psychological well-being are also key elements in the support mechanism.
According to many refugee interviews, the support provided in reception centres or by NGOs is neither sufficient nor efficient, due to the constant change of trainers and the diversity of educational backgrounds of the refugees. On the other hand, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the psychosocial well-being of vulnerable refugees in Jordan. Negative factors include exposure to violence, stress accumulation, loss of family members or separation from family members, deteriorating living conditions, inability to support oneself and family, increased militarization and divisions in communities, and lack of access to services. These can all have immediate consequences, as well as long-term consequences, for the displaced. Indeed, the ARU in Jordan relied on experts from many different fields, to grant a wide-ranging perspective to the Unit. The multi-disciplinary approach is performed with inputs gathered from the legal perspective, child protection, business services providers, medical and health experts, psychological support and psychological treatment perspective, capacity building, training and sustainable development. The rationale is to develop a Psychosocial Refugee Support Forum (PRSF) which covers distinct modules and combines interactive training methods, in-house seminars, e-learning and field activities or short-term internships. Feedback sessions and training evaluations are used to increasingly fine-tune the contents and set-up of the training material in order to better equip psychosocial support service providers, over time.
“The training helped me to grow personally and professionally”
The first testimonial from Jordan is Limar Qtaifan, a Syrian refugee involved in the training program promoted by the ARU on Psychological Support for Refugees. She opens her testimony highlighting the great sufferance due to psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic. The delivery of the training online did not help, since it was an unfamiliar and complex way of learning, with unstable connection and many distractions. When participants went back in class, other challenges arose: difficulties in reaching the classroom due to problems in transportation, plus only limited students could actually attend due to the social distancing restrictions. Despite all that, the course was successful and useful. Limar stated that she acquired many skills that contributed to her personal development, improved thinking abilities and engaged her in dynamic activities, reducing the stress and pressure imposed by the pandemic. In addition, she learned much about the refugees’ rights in Jordan, from a legal, health and family perspective. Most importantly, the training program helped enhancing self-confidence, making connections with friends and colleagues and having a positive impact on participants, contributing to professional development and social integration.
“I am now self-independent and more able to secure my living expenses”
Muhammad Al-Heissa is the second Syrian refugee interviewed for the ARU Stories. He took part in a training on Economic and Legal empowerment, which was really relevant for him. He learned he was in the condition of starting his own business, while before, as a Syrian refugee, he was not aware of such a possibility. The greatest achievement was relying on himself and securing a living for his family. Moreover, the training was also the occasion to get familiar with online learning and digital tools. All in all, the support offered by the ARU helped both professionally and personally, providing trainees with skills and a valuable life-experience, reducing the feeling of shame which is often connected with the need for psychological support.
“We used to connect, meet and share our experiences”
The third testimonial for the Jordanian ARU is Kefaya Khader. She reported her experience as part of the RAISD research team. She was indeed included in the ARU due to the wide expertise in community social support and refugees’ organisations, with the scope of providing services to the largest number of refugees in Jordan. The value of being part of the ARU lied in the opportunity to connect, meet and share experiences. Moreover, it provided us with a new perspective: helping those in real need, with a more tailored approach, to help them find the right service, the right place, the right path, upon their specific needs and specific interests. The positive impact of the project will stay as a long-term result for her, and for all the practitioners and organizations working with refugees.