This week, during World Refugee Week, the Anglican Alliance is showcasing examples where Anglican and Episcopal churches around the world are responding to refugees with practical assistance, welcoming refugees in to their communities and discovering mutual enrichment through this engagement.
Today the focus is on Jordan:
In Jordan the local church is working to respond to the practical needs of refugees with disabilities living in the refugee camps. The Holy Land Institute for Deaf and Deafblind Children has been working with children with disabilities in Jordan for over 50 years after its foundation by the Episcopal Church in Jordan.
The Holy Land Institute has been an “early responder” in Za’atari refugee camp in the north of Jordan, where 80,000 refugees now live, having been involved with assisting refugees with disabilities and their families since the formation of the camp in 2012.
The wider context in Jordan, as of April 2017, is that 733,210 refugees have been registered in Jordan with UNHCR, with the large majority arriving from Syria (657,621 refugees) and the next largest group from Iraq (62,445 refugees). UNHCR data places Jordan as hosting the second largest number of refugees globally, relative to the size of its population, with 89 refugees for every 1000 inhabitants.
The Holy Land Institute, together with four other organisations making up the Disability Network, runs a disability centre in the camp to provide hearing tests, hearing aids, eye tests and glasses for refugees. The organisations in the network complement each other to provide assistance to cover a range of impairments that cause visual, hearing, physical/mobility and intellectual disabilities, as well as neurological and medical issues.
Since work commenced at the centre more than 3,000 children have received help, together with young and elderly people with hearing, visual or mental disabilities. Each day, 75 children come into the centre to receive help with hearing devices, therapy, education and even just support and friendship from Holy Land Institute staff and the centre’s 14 volunteers. Specialist staff from the network of Jordanian disability-specific organisations regularly visit the camp.
Isobel Owen, Programme Officer at the Anglican Alliance, and Janice Proud, its Relief Manager, visited the centre in Za’atari refugee camp in April 2017.
Reflecting on the experience, Isobel said: “Within a context of great need, the Holy Land Institute and the Network have responded to the most vulnerable, regardless of faith or nationality, and have brought their expertise and skills in to close a gap in service provision in the camp.”