In 2005, I worked in the pharmaceutical industry, and I was happy with my career, especially with the financial benefits it offered. But my heart was clearly not in it. I wanted to be involved in intercultural and interfaith dialogue, and to help my community. When SALTO EuroMed organised its first inter-religious dialogue training in Jordan in 2008, I was so uncertain of how to begin the application that I missed the deadline. A good friend of mine who was aware of my passion simply applied on my behalf. Luckily for me, SALTO placed me on a reserve list, and someone dropped out at the last minute (literally on the eve of the event), and so I just packed my bags and went to Ajloun.
It turned out to be just what I needed. I felt that the people, the ethos, and the work was exactly what I wanted to do. I had no idea what SALTO was, and I could not tell EVS from a youth exchange. I remember when I was approached by Bernard Abrignani (SALTO EuroMed Coordinator) who asked me if I was interested in becoming a trainer. I told him about my experience as a trainer in pharma, which involved a suit, a tie, and a laptop – items a youth trainer can definitely do without. We agreed to give it a try and I was invited as a junior trainer at a SALTO training in Greece on sustainable development. This was connected to my scientific background and previous work experience and helped me build my career as a youth trainer – something I have been doing ever since.
In 2005, myself and two friends carried the idea to set up I Dare for Sustainable Development. The journey with Youth in Action and SALTO helped us refine the concept and approach of ‘I Dare’ (that’s the name of our organisation) and gain necessary competences where we finally registered it as a non-profit social enterprise in 2013.
Since then, we have sent hundreds of young Jordanians on European mobility projects across Europe and have in turn hosted many European volunteers. We have even developed our own in-house framework for volunteers called ‘JVS’ – Jordanian Voluntary Service, inspired by EVS. At present, we are one of the key European volunteer sending and hosting organisations in Jordan and recently we have been hosting an average of 15 European volunteers per year.
It exposed me to a reality I didn’t know existed. Something that I was looking for, but I was not aware of. I think this is what SALTO does best – it presents you with a number of opportunities, and also empowers you to take responsibility for your own learning. SALTO training helped me to become much more self-aware and able to identify and address my own needs. I also like that we are so aligned on many values such as human rights, peace, and reconciliation. We lost many young people in the region to violent extremism; some as victims, some as perpetrators. The Euro-Mediterranean partnership can offer a lot, but we all need to invest in bridges for dialogue – like SALTO – and this is what I am trying to do.