The Colors Of Ruwwad

The February issue for Jordan Business, which should hit newsstands in a few days, is going to feature a pretty unique cover story about corporate social responsibility. At the heart of the story is a colorful little building in Jabal il-Nathif called the Ruwwad center and it is home to a large number of activities for the local community’s children. I won’t talk to much about Ruwwad right now because I’d like people to actually read the story when it comes out since its pretty comprehensive and is an important subject. Suffice to say, Ruwwad is full funded by the private sector, lead by Fadi Ghandour. The guy is probably the most humble business personality in the country, and when he enters a room, the kids know him and he knows them and some of their troubles. He volunteers at the center frequently and they really love the guy.

Anyways, you’ll read all about this when the issue comes out but I wanted to write this post as a way of writing down some leftover thoughts that never made their way to the printing press. While I had visited the center twice before for background research, today was a photo shoot and my boss tagged along to get the tour of the place as kids of all ages followed us around in a large group. It was kind of strange because today was a very rainy and foggy day, pretty much all day. But the exact moment we started shooting it became completely sunny and the skies cleared temporarily. The universe does have its moments sometimes.

As usual, it was all very impressive. The fact that hundreds of these kids have a place to go after school, that they have access to a place that’s fun, a learning environment, a solitary environment away from violence and poverty. A place of color to contrast the grayness of the buildings in il-Nathif.

The colors are also a contrast of the community. The idea was to bring some light into the dim realities of il-Nathif, where there’s plenty of unemployment, poverty and illiteracy. These are completely different realities. One child, who was no older than 7 or 8, looked like he had either eaten strawberries or had smeared his mother’s lipstick on his face. It turns out that the night before, he had fallen on the family souba (a cheap, red kerosene heater) and burnt his lips to a bright red. Different realities to say the least.

The colors also contrast other social-structures already at work there. Something I was told during the research phase of writing this piece, something I didn’t feel would be appropriate to include in the final draft out of safety for those concerned, was the extent to which this initiative was rejected by certain religious organizations already embedded in the conservative community.

They told people things like Ruwwad being an organization financed by Israelis and Americans and having ulterior political motives, like attacking religion. Jabal il-Nathif is as conservative as they come and some didn’t even like the idea of females and males mixing. They told their kids to stay away. This was roughly 2 years ago or so.

The center sees about 300 kids visiting everyday. They learn new things, they read books that their schools won’t let them borrow, they receive mentoring and help, they paint, 9 and 10 year olds are learning how to use email and MS Word, they’re even taught karate. This is to say nothing of the older university students who receive scholarships, fix homes in their community and come back as part of their funding to teach at the center.

There is so much backwards thinking that disguises itself behind religion and conservatism; thinking that is meant to translate into values, to imply that those who don’t adhere to them are valueless.

But in the end, I think that when the intentions are good and results are on the ground, the true colors always shine through.

Even on the rainiest of days.


  • Great choice for an article!!!! I LOVE Ruwwad (and I begged them to let me write about them, but they chose well in choosing Jordan Business). I love the philosophy of letting the community decide what they need, of local business supporting it, of doing it with quality, the staff’s commitment to excellence, of how much genuine love is shown the chlidren, how they encourage reading and creative thought. I’ll buy the mag just for this.

    Now this is a place bloggers could volunteer and teach kids computer skills and mentor young kids who need a model that has made it (a real life Captain Abu Raed). Hint, hint. It is fairly accessible from Abdoun, there is good structure in place but is also flexible.

  • Im glad you wrote baout it, I visited the place 2 months ago as I was distributing clothes and gifts with my friend, it was a great experience. I was so impressed on how organized they are, very clean and the way they distribute the clothes to the needy. Such a wonderful idea and I hope anyone can help in donating naything.


  • Naseem,

    Great piece. I actually did some volunteer work with Ruwaad some time ago in the early stages. Truly remarkable. All the best for this project under the leadership of Fadi Ghandour.

  • Even though i heard about the place before it was nice to fill some of the gaps about the place and what it does. i’ll be sure to keep it in mind when the opportunity comes

  • MashAllah. I read about this once before and thought it was a great idea. Let us know what is needed in donations and volunteering. The foreign Muslim ladies would love to participate I am sure and bring along their kids to do some hands on work with those less fortunate. It is a learning experience for all involved.

  • About time. Although I’m mad at Aramex these days, but hurray to Mr.Ghandour

    Though more care should be directed to the refugee camps, such as Wehdat, Baq3a and Hussein before it’s too late and infested with hopeless bearded young men.
    The government-run ” Non Governmental Organizations” should pour some of the Forgein aids there.

  • They are certainly the Ruwwad in Jordan in the corporate social responsibility work. Which they do in a well researched manner. Though it’s sad that what they provide is not provided already by the government, it’s beautiful to see citizens and companies giving themselves the responsibility of taking the initiative in doing what they see needed whenever they can. And not for marketing purposes like any other for profit companies do. It’s amazing work!

  • I visited Ruwwad in the summer and thought it was such a beautiful architectural representation of a beacon of light in the midst of so much grey. I remember how so joyful the kids were and given the conditions they live in, I fell in love with their spirit. This is something I truly love about Jordan. Yes, there is a lot of corruption up in the ranks. Give me one country that doesn’t suffer from that. But the civil society is really healthy. You will find endless good-will initiatives and this is definitely one of the best of them.

    I find this somehow lacking where I live in the UAE. Sure there’s a lot of charity work being done – people here are very generous. But in terms of an active social movement involving people like you and me – not officials and professionals – we still have a long way to go. We’ve become such an individualistic society.

    Anyway, kudos to the Fadi Ghandours of the world! Anyone could be him.

  • 7aki: it seems to be quite balanced. on this particular day, as photographed in this post, you had boys (and 2 girls) learning karate, while mostly girls learning in the computer lab and reading in the library. mostly the boys wanted to get photographed.

    most of the employees and volunteers are older girls living in the area

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