Thursday, January 16, 2014

Three Little Sheep and Other Tidbits

The holidays were a rough time. I found it was a time when I wanted/needed to talk to people from home most, but those people were busy traveling home or waist-deep in holiday preparations. I did end up having a fabulous Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with lots of really wonderful people, but something else that cheered me up significantly was a visit to the Center of Hope for Special Education. 

Just before Christmas, a group of young adults with special needs at this organization put on a small production of the Christmas story. My friend, Veronika, and I had the extreme privilege of watching a rehearsal of the play a few days before all the family, friends, and members of the community were invited to watch. The play was narrated by one of the teachers, but the students did an excellent job repeating their lines, entering at the designated time, and knowing their places throughout the performance. It was awesome!

I think my favorite part was the three little sheep who accompanied the shepherds to go see baby Jesus. And I also enjoyed the star that the wise men followed. :)

Mary and Joseph awaiting their visitors.
Three sheep.
Can't miss the star!
Everyone has arrived!
This organization is a kind of school for young adults with intellectual disabilities and it serves a low income part of Amman. They provide academic lessons as well as some life skills training. I was so impressed with how involved each student was in the play and the rest of the daily activities. The atmosphere was welcoming and calm and each student worked diligently.

I was also impressed with some of the things the organization has created themselves to promote learning. Take this cool map of Jordan for instance:

Different cities and points of interest have a corresponding LED light on the map. Students can press one of the buttons on the red panel on the right and see it light up on the map. Cool! (Or maybe I just really like maps...) It's this kind of creativity that I like to see when I visit different places.

There are a few other tidbits of information I want to share about the portrait of disability provisions in Jordan:

As for the policy side of things, I learned that government involvement is quite complex. There are four main government entities that have some sort of influence on the special needs community: Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, and the Higher Council for Person's with Disabilities. While there are sufficient laws and policies in place, there doesn't seem to be much implementation oversight and there is very little standard procedure for dealing with particular issues. I heard numerous stories about well-meaning people sent on a wild goose chase to various ministries in order to get the right information or paperwork filled out. Frustrating, to say the least.

Interestingly, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which has a strong presence in Jordan, is currently working with the government and other organizations to make improvements. JICA regularly sponsors trips for Jordanian individuals working in the special needs community to learn about how things are done in Japan. (At a parent support meeting I attended in Jordan, I heard from a woman who had just returned from a trip to Japan. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that her generalizations about the situation in Japan were similar to my own!) In addition, JICA is sending an individual to work in the Ministry of Labor this year. Her goal is to help integrate people with special needs into the work force. While I do admire this goal, getting another government ministry involved will certainly add complexity.

Finally, I want to comment on the wide use of social media in Jordan. I found that most communication happens through social media. Nearly every organization I visited has a Facebook page, often their only web presence (no accompanying website). Parents and other inquirers use this as the main way to contact the Jordan Down Syndrome Society, for example. Also, the parent of a child with Autism started the Twitter account AutismJO, which now has more than 500 followers. For people in Jordan, social media is helping organizations be part of the community at home and around the globe as pictures are shared and connections are made.

Well, there is lots more to tell, so feel free to ask me about it sometime! I certainly can't write everything here, but I look forward to sharing more with interested people in the future!


  1. I love the star! The whole thing looks so sweet and completely wonderful. What a privilege you had to visit at that time.

  2. Yes Hannah, it was a privilege to see this play! You got it all in arabic and yet understood! I look forward to your reports from Germany.