A school in Jordan is providing more than education for families like Hadeel’s
‘I’m happy with my friends,’ says Sandra. ‘We like to play Rock-Paper-Scissors.’
Sandra is seven years old. She’s a bubbly little girl, with painted nails and a passion for My Little Pony. Thanks to her mum, Hadeel, who studied English at university, Sandra speaks fluent English and is eager to chat. But Sandra’s cheeriness covers an anxiety, owing to her traumatic start in life.
Fleeing to safety
Hadeel grew up in a Christian family in Iraq with her three brothers. Now all but one of her siblings have fled Iraq to escape oppression and conflict. After she married in 2008, Hadeel and her husband settled in Baghdad, but then moved to northern Iraq after being violently attacked and robbed in their home.
Sadly, the situation in northern Iraq became more dangerous. So following the birth of Sandra in 2010, the couple fled to Jordan.
It’s a choice many parents have to make to keep their children safe, when home can no longer be called a safe place. But leaving everything you know behind is not easy. And the welcome to refugees is not always warm.
Fortunately, Hadeel and her family found Fr Khalil, a Parish Priest with a mission to bring his own multifaith community together, and to help refugee families build new lives. He runs theMarka School for Refugee Children in Amman, Jordan. Sandra attends the school, and Hadeel volunteers as a teaching assistant.
A school and a refuge
In the mornings, the Marka School is a regular private school for Muslim and Christian pupils in the community. But from 3pm until 7pm the doors re-open to over 200 Iraqi Christian pupils, children of refugee families like Sandra, who were driven from their homes by conflict and terror. Many of the Iraqi pupils and their families live within the parish, in homes which Parish Priest Fr Khalil provides with support from Missio.
Through you, Fr Khalil also gives the refugee families grocery vouchers, and runs a clinic staffed with volunteers, because they are not entitled to public healthcare in Jordan.
But practical needs aren’t the only issue for refugee families like Hadeel’s. Iraqi refugees aren’t allowed to work in Jordan, and this can often add depression and anxiety to the trauma they’ve already experienced. Fr Khalil saw that the adults needed a sense of purpose. That’s why most of the school’s teachers, support assistants, cooks, caretakers, bus-drivers and cleaners are volunteers drawn from the Iraqi refugee community.
Fr Khalil’s team has also established workshops to empower the community, foster confidence and impart new skills. One group of women are learning to sew, a skill they use to make free school uniforms for the pupils.
Another group constructs hand-made rosary beads, sold to raise funds for the school. Adult English classes take place two evenings a week, and a parish-run coffee shop provides a safe and supportive social space.
‘The school is like family’
Hadeel has been volunteering as a Teaching Assistant for five months. She had never worked in education before; in Iraq she worked as a dental nurse. But, she says,‘I love working at the school. During the holidays I think of the students. All these pupils have problems. I listen to them, to help them.’
And the students love her too: in the playground two smiling girls run up with pictures they had drawn for her. They say Hadeel is their favourite teacher because she is ‘kind and thoughtful.’
Thanks to your support through Missio, Fr Khalil and his team are bringing real hope and love to families who have left their lives behind. ‘The school is like my family,’ says Hadeel.‘I don’t have family in Jordan. The teachers help me too. We help each other.’
Thank you for helping
The Marka School for Refugees, parish workshops, and supported housing are financed entirely through charitable donations; there is no government funding.
Because of your donations, missionaries like Fr Khalil can help mothers like Hadeel find peace and purpose after trauma. Thank you for being part of the Missio family. Together we are bringing God’s love to the world!