This April, 10 University of Westminster students were joined by 10 students from the University of Babylon and the University of Basraa in Iraq on the AlSadi Changing Lives Programme for a life-changing experience.
For 12 days, the students, from a range of undergraduate courses across the University, participated in a variety of activities facilitated by local Jordanian organisations. It was the third time the group included Iraqi students and the first time the University of Basraa participated.
This trip was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Quintin Hogg Trust and Dr Majid AlSadi, Chairman and CEO of Eastern Holding, a major philanthropist who promotes commitment to humanitarian work, social justice and cross-cultural exchange between the UK and the Middle East.
The itinerary included volunteering at the Gaza Refugee Camp, home to around 30,000 of the most disadvantaged Palestinian refugees in Jordan. The group joined local volunteers from the One Love organisation working in the new community centre and engaging in a discussion about the history of the camp, the community and living conditions.
The students also put together activities and lessons for secondary school children in the Princess Basma Centre in Karak, met with young female entrepreneurs in Karak’s 03-Incubator, and visited the Jordan Media Centre, where they engaged with students from various Middle Eastern countries to discuss media and cultural issues in region.
This year, Dr Tarik Sabry, Reader in Media and Communication Theory and Director of the Arab Media Centre at the University of Westminster, joined the group and facilitated an involving and engaging dialogue and workshop on refugee issues.
Dr Tarik Sabry said: “It was an immense privilege participating in the Changing Lives programme in Jordan. The programme was packed with excellent activities including: workshops, visits to educational organisations and NGOs, refugee camps, film screening and sightseeing. There was also room for stimulating debate and discussion among the students. This is without doubt a successful programme and has been, for many of our students, a great source of inspiration.”
The itinerary also included opportunities to explore Jordanian culture with visits to the Dead Sea, Karak Castle, Amman’s Citadel and a hike to Barqash Forest with the Shams Community group to continue discussions on a variety of topics including identity and stereotypes.
Aiste Kurkulyte, a Tourism and Event Management student, said: “I am so grateful for the opportunity to get involved in such a powerful and varied program. The experiences I have gone through, the people I have met and the lessons I have learnt will definitely help me to develop myself personally and professionally, become more culturally aware, globally engaged and more flexible while communicating (especially without words). I am grateful to my University for offering such a trip.”
Luisa Guerra, trip supervisor, said: “It was such a privilege to be involved in this initiative. I am incredibly proud of our students and of how they engaged in the activities and interacted with everyone. They are a credit to our institution.”
Chris Smith, Director of External Relations, said: “It gives me such great pleasure to see this project develop with each iteration. The Changing Lives Programme simply wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of Dr Majid AlSadi and as ever, we are truly grateful for his ongoing support to both the University and our students.”
We have a rich mix of international partnerships in over 20 countries worldwide and place particular emphasis on providing international opportunities for our students. With students from 165 countries, staff from across the world and a highly international alumni community, the University of Westminster continues to embrace global engagement in all its forms.