Final Thoughts – Reflection from Amman, Jordan, from AC4 Fellow, Megan Germain
Final Thoughts – August 23rd, 2017
The completion of training materials for the Participatory Action Research Program was my favorite deliverable this summer. Some Arab youth have a lot of “Do’s and Don’ts” and “How To’s” heading their way! As the training is implemented in Syria, the participating youth will be learning about the ethics of their research, how to communicate with different audiences, and how to have a wide spread impact within their communities.
In addition to my Terms of Reference (TOR) for my research position, I have been able to branch out and get more involved with projects I am interested in such as monitoring systems and the incorporation of gender sensitivity into trainings and materials. It has made me increasingly excited to return and take more quantitative courses as well as practical courses in management at SIPA in my last year of my masters program.
The largest lessons learned this summer haven’t come directly from my internship. It’s been an interesting journey learning how to operate here. Living in El Salvador, or “in the field”, I learned not to try and fit my way of living into my new context, but to adapt and accept that life was different and that change is a good thing. My mantra was more of a “be one with the cockroach”, because they weren’t leaving any time soon. And on a more serious note, accepting that life was slower, mentalities were different, and deep seeded traditions hide behind every personality. Yet here in Jordan is different. Changing and accepting the way of life meant foregoing a lot of the qualities I have previously prided myself on – a sense of independence or brutal honesty. There has been a lot of vacillation between disdain, wonder, appreciation, and utter confusion, but all-in-all I think this summer has taught me a lot about acceptance. And not acceptance of others in the way we’re all taught to hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya’, but acceptance that things take time and often are far too complicated to understand. Acceptance that some things are out of my control and aren’t my place, and that coexistence isn’t necessarily complacency.
As I reflect on peace building, gender inequality, and other developmental and humanitarian problems the MENA Region faces, I’ve realized that it may not be my place to be the one “making a difference.” After this summer I see my role as a facilitator. Provide people with the tools to make a difference in their own lives – if they choose to. As researchers or development practitioners, we need to constantly remind ourselves that the communities we go into have agency and have a choice. It is invaluable that they are present and partaking in their own empowerment. If not, could it be sustainable?
As my summer in Amman comes to a close, I am thankful for the time to be completely taken out of my comfort zone. I am grateful for the lessons it has taught me and the new experiences it has given me. I have grown as a practitioner and as a peace builder, or should I say facilitator? Whichever way, I am excited to continue practicing participatory methods, and including those who know the most and experience the most, in the development of peaceful, educated, and fruitful societies.
Author: Megan Germain is a 2017 Fellow, pursuing a Masters in Development Practice degree in the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia. This summer she travelled to Amman, Jordan to work in the UNICEF MENA Regional Office to support on youth peacebuilding initiatives particularly on training support for marginalized youth. Read more reflection from Megan here.
Photos: Taken and provided by author.