Providing psychosocial support to Jordanians

Rather than CARE setting and measuring a priority, we’re listening to what people say makes the most difference in their own lives.

“I have a role in this life, I could take care of myself and think about projects to do in the future.”

“I have more courage and confidence.”

“I became part of a group… part of a community.”

Those are pretty powerful statements from women refugees, especially as the Syrian crisis continues in 11th year. CARE just published its annual report on needs in Jordan “11 years of Crisis Against All Odds.” The numbers are sobering. Depending on their country of origin, up to 24% of people feel unsafe. 80% of Syrians are facing unemployment, up from 50% in 2019.

But the challenges—2 years of COVID-19 on top of 11 years of crisis and displacement—are just part of the story. People CARE is supporting—especially where we focus on improving mental health and building connections and solidarity—describe a story of hope. Of finding ways to balance their workloads, manage their stress, and create plans for the future. (I suspect we could all learn from the CARE Jordan team!).

As part of CARE’s response under the Syria Regional Response Plan (3RP), CARE International in Jordan is providing Psycho Social Support (PSS) to refugee and Jordanian women, girls, boys, and men in urban areas and Azraq camp. With about $550,000 from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Luxembourg in 2 phases between 2019 and 2021, the team has been able to reach nearly 115,000 people (nearly 63,000 of whom are women and girls).

The project team decided to evaluate by asking participants what they think the key outcomes are, and what impacts matter most to them. Rather than CARE setting and measuring a priority, we’re listening to what people say makes the most difference in their own lives. So this story is entirely told through the voices of project participants, and the changes they say matter.

What has changed?

  • People feel hope for the future. The sessions have helped people move beyond immediate crisis and trauma into hopes and plans. “My priority when I had arrived in Jordan was to survive, but my participation… made me discover my goals and dreams and gave me hope.” A teenage girl says, “It has motivated me to dream and work on my long-term goal is to serve humanity as a Social Worker when I grow up.”
  • Self-confidence is higher and more resilience. A teenage girl says, “I positively see myself now. It’s harder for others to change that, and I can persuade my family to see that value too.” Syrian girls feel more confident making their own decisions. The more conservative their families were to begin with, the bigger the change is in their lives.
  • Women can set boundaries. “I grew up in a way that made me feel shy to say no to others. I recognized through participating in the “story of my life” activity that I should set good boundaries without regret.”
  • People have better mental health. “I used to neglect myself so I felt depressed with time ...After participating in the peer support groups, I started doing more self-care activities that boosted my mood. This has also influenced my relationship with my children for the better as I have now more positive insight towards life.”
  • People feel physically healthier. Lots of people talked about the importance of exercise in their mental health, and one of the impacts of this program. One man says, ““I lost 18 kilograms in six months; I ran around 8 KM daily …I am proud of myself; I was overweight .. [Laughing] I could not even sit on the ground comfortably.” A woman says, “I realized that I forgot myself; I did not use to see myself in the mirror for days and to eat after every one of my family… I have self-worth now; I wake up early to exercise inside the shelter, and I have dedicated an hour daily for skincare or visiting friends.”
  • It’s easier to cope with stress. “My main coping mechanism with stress was crying. However, expressing my feelings with other mothers has made me feel better”. Another participant said “I used to feel as if I was going to explode, but now I practice breathing exercises to feel better.”
  • Stereotypes are dropping. “I did not like to get in contact with Syrians… As a result of my participation in the activity, we became [Jordanian and Syrian participants] like sisters…I became convinced that stereotypes against Syrians are wrong.”

How did it happen?

  • Support the staff: CARE has 21 Jordanian staff on the program who run 8 eight safe spaces at CARE’s community centers across cities (Amman, Mafraq, Zarqa, and Irbid) and Azraq camp. Those staff change lives. Says one man, “I felt very comfortable to express my emotions …and cry, cry, and cry while I was talking with Ms.Maysa [CAREs Psychosocial Counsellor], which made me feel relieved.”
  • Connect people to each other. The project set up peer support groups so refugees and host community members could build networks and communities. That’s one of the activities value most. An Iraqi woman says, “I felt like they [other participants in the peer support groups] were my own family.” A Syrian woman says, “I received very useful advice from sisters [other participants] in the group ..their opinions are important for me because it is coming from people who have walked in my shoes.”
  • Build bridges beyond direct activities. Members in the group check up on each other outside of CARE. Some women use Whatsapp to stay in contact and ask how each other are doing. Some groups of men arrange visits to each other’s houses to provide support.
  • Work with refugees and host communities. The project works with 94,000 refugees and 20,000 Jordanians to make sure that the most vulnerable people in a community get help, no matter where they come from.

Want to learn more?

Check out the project evaluation, and the annual needs assessment report 11 years of Crisis Against All Odds