Monday, February 9, 2009

Ayn Al-Basha

First, I suppose I haven't really posted a description of what I am doing here. I am working with Entity Green Training (EGT).

"Entity Green Training (EGT) is a Jordanian company that provides livelihood strategies to meet the needs of people from poor and marginalized communities. EGT's approach focuses on vocational training, income generation support services, and building affordable housing. Our long term goal is to create sustainable communities where people have access to economic and social opportunities and can enjoy a sense of security and well-being."

Things are settling in, I even bought groceries. I got a kilo of bread, 3 tomatoes, 4 cucumbers, and 6 tangerines for the same amount as a small jar of peanutbutter ($3). I think I am going to leave out the peanut butter and stick with the basics. We had fried spring onions and cabbage for dinner, mmmm.
After a few days of sitting in and tagging along I am feeling more in touch with the program and able to contribute some real work. Among other things, I am helping get the website up and running, I will post it as soon as it is live.
I finished E.F. Schumaker's Small is Beautiful on the plane coming here (if you haven't read I would really suggest it) and it has proved very appropriate. We are being very intentional about developing and growing, and I can see the merits of Schumaker's focus on small, appropriate, localized solutions. Just as with the Obama campain "community organizing" didn't mean anything to me before I started, now "integrated" and "community based" are words that are gaining layers of meaning and importance for me.
Below are photos of the vocational training site at Ayn Al-Basha.

Inside the hanger. In the back are hundreds of bags of water bottles collected from the Sheraton Hotel, our largest account. In the front is a sorting table where I was pouring water left in the bottles into an oil container we got out of the garbage. I did three bags and got around 10 litters of water from each.

This is a section of the bottle mural. I will post the whole thing sometime. No one in Jordan recycles glass, and we aren't sure exactly what we will do with these, but for now they look nice. I am advocating for their inclusion in the construction of a structure, maybe as a window. Finding good markets for our waste is a barrier to what will eventually be a self sustaining recycling opperation. Some materials we cannot sell, and some materials have been hit hard by the recession, cardboard for example went from about $140 a ton to about $30 in the last few months.

These bays are where the VT magic happens. The classes offered at the site are electrical, plumbing, recycling, automotive repair, cooking, computer software, computer hardware, cement block production, construction, and organic gardening. The site is always humming with activity, I call it good church.

The offices are in the turquoise building. The site and the VT program are mostly funded by a large grant at the moment. Students receive a stipend and teachers (some international and some Jordanian) are also paid. The program works with 80% displaced Iraqis and 20% Jordanians. The site is right next to Bagaa refugee camp which is home to 250,000 Palestinians. The lease on the land is up in a few months and we will reevaluate the program if we can not keep the site. The presence of the Iraqi refugees sparked an influx of funding in Jordan, but as Iraqis go back there is the worry that the good projects that have developed will lose funding and will not survive. There is a need for a training program in Jordan (or anywhere) that offers the support services and integrated livelihood support we do. We will stay lean, mean, and mobile if the need arises.
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