Westminster students participated in the AlSadi Changing Lives Programme which is a cultural exchange opportunity in Jordan aiming to provide students with a global, life-changing experience. Students also had the chance to immerse themselves in Middle Eastern culture and learning, while also contributing to local communities by volunteering.

The Changing Lives Programme took place between 14-28April, involving participating students in different activities and allowing them to experience living in the Middle East.

Highlights of the visit included two days at Jerash Gaza Camp, where Palestinian refugees from the Gaza Strip live. Students were introduced to the camp’s history by volunteers and were engaged in different activities, allowing them to interact with children and inhabitants of the camps. Feedback showed that the visit had strong impact on students.

Teodora Miscov, student on the Digital Media and Communication BA Honours course, said: “The children from the Jerash Gaza Camp became incredibly close to us, almost instantly creating a bond with us and accepting us within their community unconditionally.”

Participants in the programme also spent three days at Madrasati School in Balqa where they were involved in improving the school yards – they were outlining the football and basketball pitches, painting and decorating the walls as well as integrating with children by teaching English and playing sport games with them.  

Zakariya Ahmed, student on the Psychology BSc Honours course, said: “The children in the class were again very engaging and delightful to work with, I remember being surprised by a child who shouted out the word ‘elegance’.”

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At the Jordan Media Institute, a graduate school for just over 30 students, Westminster volunteers had the opportunity to discuss current issues, concerning the region and spoke to a journalist who had recently travelled to Syria to shoot a documentary. Her story was particularly inspiring one to students interested in the topic.

Sassan Salamiam, Television Production BA Honours student, who is organising an exhibition in London with the refugee crisis as a leading theme, gained an invaluable contact for his project with the journalist offering her help for the exhibition. He said: “When one experiences something first-hand, I feel that the effect on the person is likely far greater than if they had simply learned about the same things at school or online. I feel the trip helped me to know what I want to do in my life: help people by changing perceptions. At the moment I want to approach this ambition through my passions in filmmaking, photography, speaking and making people laugh.”

Two other students were invited for an interview at R’oya TV together with the representative from another visit at the British Embassy, Laura Dauban. The interview was broadcast live on the national TV.

Julia Hrbata, student on the Tourism and Events Management BA Honours course, said: “The result of visiting Jordan is not only reflected on my improved knowledge about the region, Arab culture, food and behaviour of people in Jordan but it also gave me a wider perspective about my future.”

Read more about the expansion of Changing Lives Programme, offering work placements.

Read about Westminster students changing lives on the Jordan Times.

Photo credits: Sassan Salamiam, Television Production BA Honours student

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