Charity, The Amman Series, Travel, Uplifting and Encouraging

Hands on Hope – A Friend to those facing dark times.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

– Martin Luther King JR

In 2017 I spent six months in the incredible country of Jordan. As a student based in Amman, I was quickly overwhelmed by the generosity and hospitality of local Jordanians. The country is filled with beauty, from the glorious countryside to the bustling cities. I would certainly recommend that you pay Jordan a visit. Throughout my time in Jordan I came into contact with the organisation Hands-On Hope and I would love to share with you about their projects to help local Jordanians.

Hands-On Hope is a local Jordanian NGO based in Amman. Founded in 2015, the NGO prides itself in being committed to helping the poorest of the poor, no matter what the nationality. Under the leadership of Jacki Scott, the organisation seeks to provide critical support to those suffering under hardship.  Jacki and her team of volunteers pride themselves in taking time to invest in the current and future generations of Jordan by providing support with the aim of helping people become self sufficient.

One thing that I personally appreciate about Hands-On Hope is the feeling of community. Supporters and volunteers come together and unite as one to make a difference; this feeling of community is something truly unique and special. The Hands-On Hope community is in reality a family.

Some people say they work to help needy people, but I think we work to help ourselves: we are the needy people! We need the feeling of joy that they give us when we help them. They need money or food maybe, but we need something more important: we need happiness!

– A quote from a volunteer from Hands-On Hope.

The Hands-On Hope team is a perfect example of ordinary people coming together to make an extraordinary difference; for that reason I would like to encourage you to support their amazing projects.

January bread drive

One such project is the monthly bread drive. A bread drive ensures that families receive enough bread: a major staple food of the local diet. It also serves as a way to ensure that children are eating foods of nutritional value.

Hands On-Hope are requesting support so that they can extend their drive further in order to reach more communities throughout Jordan. Can you help with this incredible project? Even a small donation goes a long way.

Baby formula provided to the children

Another project is the baby formula drive; a new project designed to provide families with nutritional baby formula with the aim of preventing malnutrition and anemia. This baby formula helps the children get the vital nutrition that they need.

If you can’t feed a hundred people, feed just one.

– Mother Teresa

If you are interested in learning more or if you feel that you can donate to this incredible organisation, here are some ways to get in touch.

First, contact Jacki Scott at jkiscott@gmail.com to find out more information about upcoming projects or required items. Jacki would love to talk to you about her vision and would love to connect with you.

Then, become a member of the Facebook community; share your support and encouragement and celebrate when people receive the aid and support that they require.

Join the Facebook community: web.facebook.com/HandsOnHope/ 

If you wish to contribute to Hands-On Hope and their projects, you can send a payment to Jackie via pay pal: jkiscott@gmail.com

Finally please spread the word and share about Hands-Of Hope. With your support lives can be changed and a real difference can be made in the community. Please share this organisation with your friends, colleagues and the community and together let’s make a positive difference to impact the lives of many people in Jordan!

The Jerusalem Series

Lighting candles in the Old City

The Old City of Jerusalem is always a hive of activity. As the sun gently rises over the distant hills, shopkeepers begin their commutes towards the city centre. Long days lie ahead, setting up shop in the empty streets.

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It does not take long for the crowds to appear -in their hundreds. Tourism in Jerusalem is very seansonal, depending on the events. As a holy city to three of the main monotheistic religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism – Jerusalem welcomes over 3.5 million tourists a year.

One particular afternoon three friends and I were making our way back home after a drink sage tea in the sunshine under a palm tree. It was a Friday, one of the busiest days in the week. We weaved our way through the crowded streets of Muristan, up towards Christian Quarter Road and as we turned onto the road we heard a voice call to us.

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“Hello, lovely family!” 

I have to confess that when we arrived in Jerusalem, we were instructed to avoid conversation with shopkeepers and to just continue walking. The four of us were used to ignoring this instruction.

“We are in spirit, mate” Mal replied.

“How lovely!” The friendly shopkeeper said smiling as he laid out his coloured scarves for display.

I started to smile to myself as we continued walking. When I arrived in the Old City of Jerusalem all those years ago, I was told to keep my head down and walk straight from place to place, I remember being warned that I should not talk to anyone and that I certainly shouldn’t entertain the idea of conversation.

Time passed and our friendship with this particular shopkeeper had grown. The shopkeeper and his shop became a safe haven for some of us when we were walking home. I should stress that it is very unusual to not feel safe in Jerusalem, however, if we ever felt intimidated or at risk of being followed we would calmly walk to the shop and wait there whilst the shopkeeper would send some of his relatives to investigate.

One afternoon, we discovered that the shopkeeper’s birthday was in the following week and we decided to bake him a birthday cake: this soon became quite problematic as we remembered that we did not have any oven.

So, we set to work on preparing a toffee cheesecake and to our surprise, it was a big success. After hours of searching online we found the perfect recipie.

Navigating the Old City thta busy Friday morning turned into more of a challenge than we had anticipated. We tried our best to make the occasion a surprise. As we turned off the bustling David Street onto Christian quarter road we stopped at the first shop and asked if we could borrow a lighter.

The shopkeeper looked at us quizzically and cautioned us not to smoke as it was not good for our health: we continued to explain the plan. The poor shopkeeper only seemed to be more confused by our explanation as we uncovered the cake and began to light some candles.

However much we had planned for this event to be a surprise, our shopkeeper friend had seen us coming from a distance. Unbeknown to us we had gained a following of roughly twelve shopkeepers who slowly followed behind: I am sure they were following us for a piece of cheesecake.

The best moment was seeing a smiling face emerge from the shop and stare in utter shock at the crowd of people who were singing happy birthday. Even some tourists joined in to sing with us. We sang together in Arabic and English and then we all sat down and began to eat. The street was filled with laughter, fun and of course – thousands of tourists.

I am so grateful for that one conversation with a shopkeeper in the Old City, as it led to our hilarious friendship which still exists to this day.

I understand an appreciate the caution of the organisation that I worked for, and I would advise you to walk around the Old city in groups or pairs if you have any concerns. I really do believe that the Old City of Jerusalem is safe, however I would not advise single girls to walk around the city alone at night. Please, exercise caution; there are always exceptions to every rule and although the characters in the story are lovely (and real) there will always be people who sadly wish to take advantage of others.


Jerusalem series
The Riyadh series

Living in a Compound

During my time living in Saudi Arabia, I spent three months living in Al Hamra compound in Northern Riyadh. Since then I have been asked a lot of questions about compound life and about the experience of living on a compound so I wanted to write briefly about my experience.

I moved to Al Hamra Compound in August 2019 and I was really impressed by its cleanliness and maintanence. The compound is clean, well looked after and it is a lovely place to be able to walk around in the evening.

If you are considering moving to a compound as a family there are plenty of activities that your children could participate in from swimming to playing outdoors with friends. I spoke to a lot of parents who lived on the compound and they mentioned that it was the ideal location for their children to play together and make friends.

Depending on the compound there are often also a lot of social activities that take place. While I lived at Al Hamra compound there were a lot of social events for residents. I am sure that the kind of events will vary from compound to compound.

Within every compound there is usually a groceries shop and often a maintanence service. You may also find your compound to be equipt with a children’s play area, indoor gym, launderette, tailors and hairdressers – I should note that this will vary from compound to compound.

If you are ordering a taxi, it is worth mentioning that taxis cannot often enter compounds, you usually need to wait outside of your compound for a taxi. In my case, Al Hamra compound was poorly signposted which made it difficult to find; this resulted in uber drivers cancelling their rides which proved very frustrating. If you can drive and have a car you will not experience this difficulty.

 

Guest Posts, Uplifting and Encouraging

Release

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This is a poem that reflects the courage that one may need to step out, let go of old things and embrace new beginnings; it is dedicated to anyone who is on the verge of change. 

The child stood alone for a time,
Balloons in hand,
And quietness flooded the place,

Could she dare to let them go?
Blue, Yellow, Green.
Would she ever see them again?
Where would they go?

When would they arrive?
What adventures would they have on their way?
She could not know,
She would never know!

She only knew that the time they had spent together
had come to an end. 
With trembling hand, she raised up the first,
be blessed wherever you go!
So, gently was the string let loose
a gust of wind and it was gone. Forever.

The second seemed easier, a flash of yellow,
blurred by the sun.
Then it too was gone.
Drifting lazily along and up

With confidence now, the last balloon was raised,
and, with a small pause of reflection
and a thoughtful stare, 
it too was caught up by the breeze.
And its final course was set.

Still, she stood there, time being still,
contemplating,
remembering,
then, at last, she turned – and there they were,
the new balloons
orange, red and purple.
How beautiful they looked!
Waiting and bobbing in the breeze,
waiting just for her!

Slowly, she reached out
and took hold of the strings,
stepping forward
she let them move in the breeze,
ever so carefully, not letting them go.
Then, moving faster, she let them bob behind her
as she ran down the hill, 
into what the new day would bring.

 

The Amman Series

Tracks and Tantrums – Amman Train Station

I’m feeling a little reminiscent today, so I decided to write about a sweet moment that happened during the time that I lived in Amman, the capital city of Jordan.

It was a lovely hot Wednesday in May. I was set to leave Jordan within the following two weeks so I wanted to make the most of every remaining moment.

In true creative style, I searched the Internet to find their list of places to visit in Amman – I wanted to make sure that I had visited as many sites as possible!

As I was looking, I found the Amman train station and Hijaz Railway line.

I absolutely loved learning about the Hijaz Railway and the life of Lawrence of Arabia whilst at university, so I did not need much convincing – I ran out immediately to get a taxi.

It sounds so simple, right?

The first step was to prove to the taxi driver that the railway station actually existed. He seemed very concerned that we would get lost and that I would be dissapointed. He was finally convinced to start the journey when I showed him a YouTube video of the station from over ten years ago!
After a long detour of Amman and quite a jolly conversation with the friendly taxi driver, I arrived outside two large iron gates.

I walked through the gateway and I was greeted by a guard; I spoke to him in arabic and could not help but notice the puzzled expression on his face.

The guard’s puzzled expression only continued to grow when I started to talk about my interest in the Hijaz railway. I began to wonder if I was in the right place.
After just under one minute I found myself booked in for a free VIP guided tour of the compound. My guide Musa was lovely and took it upon himself to explain everything in Arabic, as I apparently needed to work on my pronunciation.

“If you are studying Arabic in Jordan then I will not let you speak a word of English!”

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I followed him into a little room filled with old faded documents. There were train tickets, timetables, and route plans.
Musa was faithful in explaining every detail.

I can’t describe how it felt to hold different faded, brown tickets from the late 1800s between my fingers. The room was filled to the brim with information, pictures, articles and even an old suit that a conductor would have worn in the early 1900s. As you can imagine, I stayed in that room for a while.

After some time Musa looked at me in quite a curious manner and asked me if I was hungry.
Before I could answer I was ushered into a room of over fifteen men. There were train drivers, policemen, mechanics and even a cleaner or two. I stuck out like a sore thumb!

I was invited to sit in quite literally the center of the room and as I did I became fully aware of the unusual nature of this situation.
I was questioned for a while about everything, after all it is not every day that a strange visitor joins the staff for their lunch hour.

The questioning lasted for just over half an hour and I became so aware of everyone’s kindness and generosity.

Within a short time we were fully engaged in a lovely conversation that covered quite a lot of subjects. We spoke about marriage and about Islam. We spoke about career choices and the Arabic Language. I had already explained to them that I was a languages student; after some discussion they advised me to begin a Masters degree in engineering – I did not have the heart to tell them how terrible my science qualifications were, so I continued to smile awkwardly.

At one point, I found myself giving a grammar lesson under the request of two train drivers. A few members of staff were taking notes on scraps of paper.
When lunch drew to a close, I was invited to meet each of the train drivers in person. Each one gave me a firm handshake and a warm welcome. I was allowed to explore the various carriages and stand in the train driver’s spot – the whole experience was fascinating!

One of the sweetest memories from the day was hearing my name called from a distance, I could only just hear it over the booming engine sounds.

“Goodbye Sarah, study hard for your exams!” a train driver called as the big steam train was pulling out of Amman.

Everyone began to return to work and I also knew that I had to leave.

After saying goodbye to each and every member of staff, I walked outside to call a taxi.

It took thirty miniutes for a taxi to arrive, but somehow it all seemed worth it. I was tired but the day had been so wonderful!
For the final twenty minuites of my outing, I was serenaded home by a very angry taxi driver who was arguing with his son in law over the phone.
By the tone of the driver’s voice, it was very obvious that the driver wanted to curse and swear. However, due to the circumstances, he opted for a slightly more tame approach.
” ibn sarsoora” he screamed at the top of his voice, which translates to “son of a cockroach”.

As we arrived outside my apartment, the taxi driver turned around and apologized to me for shouting. We spoke for a few minutes and he ended our encounter by adding his welcome to those of the thousands of other taxi drivers that I had met along the way.

“Welcome to Jordan and enjoy your time here!”

I don’t think that I shall ever forget the day that I chose to journey to the train station in Amman! If you ever find yourself staying in Amman, I would certainly recommend that you pay the train station a visit.


amman

The Jerusalem Series

ما هو الصديق الأكبر من الأخ؟

eyad editor

“إذا كان بإمكانك الحصول على شئ إضافي واحد في حياتك، فما الذي سيكون لديك؟”

أجابت: “أتمنى أن يكون لدي أخ

كيف يمكنني أن أعرف أنه سيتم الرد على طلبي؟

كان صباح يناير مشمسا عندما توجهنا إلى مدينة جديدة للمرة الأولى

احببة ان اتعرف على مدينة جديدة وقد دعتني صديقتي إلى بيتها وكنت ممتنة الفرصة لمشاهدة مدينة لاول مرة

التقينا جميعا في المدينة وذهبنا لتناول وجبتنا الأولى معا. جربنا أيضا أيس كريم محلى شهير مصنوع من قصب السكر

وفي وقت قصير أصبحنا أصدقاء رغم أنني لم أتكلم بالعربية ويتكلموا القليل من اللغة الإنكليزية

لقد عدت إلى منزلهم عدة مرات لأكل المقلوبة اللذيذة أو أشرب القهوة على الشرفة أثناء مشاهدة غروب الشمس الذهبي فوق تلال القرى المجاورة

في غضون ذلك أصبحت أختهم وأصبحوا اخواني

وكثيرا ما نجلس معا، ونضحك معا ونرقص معا أحيانا

غالبا ما ندرس معا، وسيكون هناك العديد من الكتب العربية والإنجليزية والرياضيات والعلوم المنتشرة على الطاولة

عندما أنا عدت إلى إنكلترا لم يتوقف التعلم – هو تلقى فقط يبدأ

كل بضعة أيام هم أرسلوا صور لواجبهم المنزلي وسألوا أسئلة عن قواعد اللغة الإنجليزية والمفردات الإنجليزية

أجبت على أسئلتهم بإرسال رسالة صوتية عندما كنت أمشي إلى الجامعة

في المقابل،انا أيضا رسلت لهم صورا لواجبي المنزلي وسألتهم أسئلة، أنهم أجبوا عليها فورا

من الصعب أن نعتقد أن سبع سنوات قد انقضت

لقد كانت السنوات السبع جميلة وأنا فخورة جدا بإخوني

بدأ بدر عامه الثالث في الجامعة، وهو مشيد جدا بمهارات إنكليزية استثنائية وهو في طريقه لتحقيق أشياء عظيمة. كشاب موهوب، ماهر ومتحفز، أنا متأكد من أن بدر ستصل إلى مرتفعات الأوساط الأكاديمية

وتخرج اياد من المدرسة الثانوية وسيبدأ دراسته الجامعية في غضون أسابيع. لقد عمل بجد وهو مثال رئيسي على المرونة والتصميم. إن مهاراته في مجال الأعمال استثنائية ولا يمكنني الانتظار لمشاهدة ثمار عمله الشاق

هادي هو مستكشف بطبيعته ولا يزال أمامه سنوات قليلة قبل أن يكمل امتحاناته. لذلك ليس هناك سوى وقت لطبيعته الفضولية والفورية أن تنمو. ويتعلم هادي من خلال تجربته ولا يفتقد أبدا فرصة لتحدي قدراته

أنا فخورة لأن لدي هؤلاء الإخوان في حياتي

انا ممتنة لرحلات التسوق، وليالي السينما، وسباقات بوليوود، والرحلات، والمكالمة على الهاتف

ناهيك عن مساعدتهم ودعمهم المستمر في دراستي وتأييدهم لكتابتي

لقد كان من الجميل مشاهدة كيف يمكن أن تؤدي اللطف وحسن الضيافة البسيطة إلى صداقات أقوى من الكلمات

لقد كنت متهورا لأشهد استعدادهم الكبير لمساعدة ودعم أخت لتحقيق أحلامها

إخواني, انا آمل أن أساعدكم بنفس الطريقة التي ساعدتوني بها على مدى السنوات السبع الماضية

أنتم خاصتان بالنسبة لي وسأعتز بمحادثاتنا وذكرياتنا إلى الأبد

الصدّيق يحب في كل وقت. اما الاخ فللشدة يولد

A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.


Jerusalem series

The Jerusalem Series

What greater friend than a brother?

Click here to read more stories from Jerusalem.

 

“If you could have one extra thing in your life, what would you have?”

“A brother,” I said.

How could I know that in a few years my wish would be answered?

It was a sunny January morning when we headed to a new city for the first time. Ola and I were exploring. Our kind friend had invited us to stay at her house overnight.

My friend had three sons and they met us in the city. We all went for our very first KFC meal together and tried the famous local Ice Cream made from sugar cane.

It did not take long for us to become friends, even though our communication was limited. At this point, I could not speak Arabic and they could only speak some English.

Time and time again I would return to their house; whether to eat delicious maqloubeh or to sit drinking coffee on the balcony watching the golden glowing sunset over the hills of the neighboring villages.

Within a matter of time, I became a sister and they became brothers.

We would often find ourselves sitting together, laughing together and yes, even dancing together. It was certainly not unusual for us to study together and there would often be many Arabic, English, Maths and Science books scattered across the table. We learned together, practiced together and worked together.

When I returned to England the learning did not stop – it had only just begun.

Every few days my phone would ‘ping’ with pictures of homework assignments and questions about English vocabulary and grammar. I would often answer their questions by sending a voice message on my daily morning commutes to University.

In return, I would also send them pictures of my homework assignments and ask them questions, which they faithfully answered on a daily basis.

Since those early days, seven years have passed – I can barely believe it! How beautiful those years have been and I am so very proud of all three of them.

Bader is starting his second year in University, he is a high achiever with exceptional English skills and he is on the way to achieving great things. As a talented, skilled and motivated young man, I am certain that Bader will reach the heights of academia.

Eyad has just graduated from his tawjihi (A-Levels) and he will start his University degree in a matter of weeks. Eyad has worked hard and he is a key example of resilience and determination. His skills in business are phenomenal and I can not wait to see the fruits of his hard work unfold.
Hadi is an explorer by nature and he still has a few years ahead of him before he will complete his tawjihi (A- Levels). Therefore there is nothing but time for his inquisitive and curious nature to grow. Hadi learns by experiencing and he never misses an opportunity to question and challenge his abilities.

I consider myself so very honored to have these three fun-loving brothers in my life. I am grateful for all of our shopping trips, outings, movie nights, Bollywood singalongs, journeys, and phonecalls. Not to mention of course their constant help and support with my studies and their support of my writing.

It really has been beautiful to watch how simple-hearted kindness and hospitality can lead to friendships which are stronger than words.

How humbling to witness such a great willingness to help and support a sister to achieve her dreams!

My brothers, I only hope to be able to help you in the same way that you have helped me over the past seven years.

You mean so very much to me and I will cherish our conversations and memories forever.

.الصدّيق يحب في كل وقت. اما الاخ فللشدة يولد

A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.


Jerusalem series