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.