JORDAN:  Grit by Jackie Jenkins

JORDAN: Grit by Jackie Jenkins


The girl children in the library reading the books which Jackie Jenkins bought.

The girl children in the library reading the books which Jackie Jenkins bought.

We talk about it a lot as educators and parents.  A few weeks ago I saw what it really means: to dig deep and push on with a smile on your face and a belief in a better tomorrow, even when faced with war on your doorstep and trauma in your past.

I had been waiting to go to the Zataari refugee camp with Rob (my husband and Representative for UNICEF Jordan) since we arrived in Jordan.  The day finally arrived.

We viewed the water sanitation facilities and delivery trucks, which was fascinating.  As an educator, however, I was most excited to see some of the schools.  I was in my element the minute we walked through the gates. While Rob went to check on the status of classroom desks, play space construction, and water in the latrines, I wanted to see some kids.

I met two incredible principals of the girls’ section of school (girls attend school in the morning, boys in the afternoon). They told me that the Ministry of Education has done an excellent job at getting them all the teaching materials they need and that the school was in good condition. But class sizes are a problem. . . and so we began to walk. . . .

Grade 2 has more than 100 students in a classroom.  Girls sit three to a bench, with the overflow sitting on the floor. When I walked in, they burst into a song, which I am sure I was meant to stand and smile at.  But I can’t help myself around small people, so I just started dancing all over the place, up the aisles and in the front.  The girls laughed and laughed.  Kids are the same everywhere!  But these children deserve a whole lot more after what they have been through.

World Mom, Jackie Jenkins, with Iman Alkhaldi, the Librarian.

World Mom, Jackie Jenkins, with Iman Alkhaldi, the Librarian.

Luckily, there are people in their lives like Iman, whom I also met that day.  She single-handedly built a library in one of the containers that serve as school rooms.  She painted it, collected wood to build shelves, and is now looking for books. She spoke good enough English for me to understand her dreams and passion, and for me to tell her, “It is women like you who will change the world. You already are.”  She cried, and I cried, and I also promised I would fill that room with books written in Arabic and English.

So I left with a new mission. If Iman can build a library oasis, if the dedicated teachers can manage to educate 100 students in a classroom without a complaint after walking out of their country affected by war, I could certainly help fill that library.

Within hours of being home, we set up a crowdrise page for donations.  I sent out emails to international schools globally telling them the story of Iman and the children I had met. My 14 year old daughter talked it up on her social media networks, and I went to bed that night feeling a fire in my belly that I had not felt since my arrival. A deep passion to make a small difference in an immediate way.  It seems the story resonated with many.  In just 48 hours, I had reached my target goal, and was able to purchase more than 500 English and Arabic books, which were delivered to the library within the week.

Grit plus humanity–the connection and compassion with those around us–can accomplish astounding results.  Yet again, I am filled with a sense of hope for the future of a region plagued by conflict and stress.

How do you help our children grow up with grit and the perseverance to face the challenges inevitable in their future? What is one concrete thing you might be able to do in your home or life that is a change for good?

Jacqueline Jenkins (Jordan)

We are a few months into our new 'home of our heart' location in Amman, Jordan. Originally from Canada, I have been moving around the globe for more than twenty years as my husband works for UNICEF. While we were a carefree couple in Uganda, Lesotho and Bangladesh, Meghan joined our family in 2000, while we were living in Myanmar. She was joined in 2005, while we were posted in India by Charlie, her energetic younger brother! Since then we have lived in Mozambique and New York. I am an educator and have been incredibly fortunate to have found rewarding jobs in international schools wherever we have been posted. Most recently I was the Elementary School Principal at the United Nations International School in Manhattan. Since arriving in Jordan, I have been a stay at home Mum, exploring, photographing and learning about the incredible history of the region and the issues facing not only the Jordan population but the incredible number of Syrian refugees currently residing in the country. While I speak English and French, I have not yet started to learn Arabic; a big goal for our time here. I write to record and process this incredible journey we are on as a family. Time passes so incredibly quickly and without a recording of events, it's hard to remember the small moments and wonderings from each posting. Being a mother in this transient lifestyle means being the key cheerleader for our family, it means setting up and taking down a house with six weeks notice, it means creating close friendships and then saying goodbye. All this, while telling yourself that the opportunities your children have make the goodbyes and new hellos worthwhile. Raising a child in this lifestyle has incredible challenges and rewards. The challenges include culture shock every single time, even when you feel the move will be an easy one. It means coaching yourself, in your dark moments to be present and supportive to your children, who have not chosen to move but are trusting you to show them the world and the meaningfulness of the lifestyle we have committed to as a UNICEF family. The upsides to this lifestyle are incredible; the ability to have our children interact and learn about cultures, languages, food, and religions firsthand, the development of tolerance and empathy through relationships with many types of different people and the travel, they have been to more places before the age of ten than some people do in a lifetime! My commitment to raising children who believe in peace and feel responsible for making a difference in creating a better world is at the core of everything I do.

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