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By Monica Awad
ZARQA, Jordan, 7 July 2008 – Zarqa camp is the oldest Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan. Families live in tiny brick houses constructed with asbestos roofing and often suffer from overcrowding and extreme poverty. Young people in the camp have little opportunity for safe play and interaction with their peers.
This is why the camp’s Social Development Centre is working to provide an adolescent-friendly space, supported by UNICEF in partnership with the Norwegian government.
The Adolescent-Friendly Learning Center provides young people with training on children’s rights, photography, communication skills and conflict resolution – with the aim of having a long-lasting effect on the youth of the camp.
“I joined this centre because I like its activities,” said Hussein Mustafa abu Galion, who attends the tenth grade in Zarqa. “During school days, when I finish school, I come straight to the center.”
How UNICEF is helping
UNICEF provides the five-room Social Development Centre, which is associated with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, with essential supplies such as furniture, books, computers, sports equipment and musical instruments.
“There are different kinds of activities at the centre,” said 15-year-old Youssef Kahwaji. “We participate in Dabkeh – a folk dance – as well as photography and how to produce animated short films.”
The centre also works to ensure equal participation by allocating specific days of the week at the centres for girls’ activities.
The centre offers peer-to-peer education on life skills as well as other adolescent-led initiatives. Awareness sessions are conducted with parents to enhance their communication with their children.
After a few years of participation at the centre, many young people are trained to provide support for others.
“When I joined the centre, I was trained on children’s rights, photography, communication skills and conflict resolution,” said 19-year-old Gulfidan Abbasi. “Now I train younger colleagues to teach them what I learned.”
Adolescents at the Zarga camp have also worked to create a website called ‘Hawiate’, which means ‘my identity’.
“We created Hawiate to reach out to as many adolescents as possible and show them our identity,” said Youssef.
At Zarqa’s Social Development Centre, young people like Youssef and Hussein now have the means and the confidence to reach out to the world.
“When I joined the centre, so many things changed in my personality. I have more self confidence and am equipped with skills. This centre shaped my personality,” said Youssef.