For the Syrian refugee lady Aswaf Qaddah, who lives in Jordan, joining a project to turn waste into sellable items not only helped her generate much needed income, but also gave her the opportunity to contribute to the preservation of the environment through collecting all types of rubbish.
Qaddah, 39, fled to Jordan in 2012 with her three sons after her husband and two brothers were murdered in Syria. They were first taken to the Zatari camp for Syrian refugees, but later moved to Irbid, which is in the north of Jordan and a few kilometres away from the border with Syria.
Being a single mother, it was not easy for her to make ends meet and she mainly relied on aid. Her situation improved when she joined a project called Waste to Positive Energy. This is managed by the international NGO Action Against Hunger (ACF) in Jordan, and has helped 1,194 vulnerable individuals around Irbid, including 550 women, to increase both their and their families’ livelihoods.
The cash-for-work recycling project employs Syrian refugees and vulnerable Jordanians on a 50-day fixed-term contract, where they collect and sort rubbish in the local area, later turning it into sellable items. Those who benefit from the project clean the areas where they live and work in groups to gather all types of waste able to be recycled and turned into products such as bowls, carrier bags, among other items, ACF Project Manager Sajeda Saqalla told 7Dnews in a recent interview.
With a wage of 12 dinars a day, participants earn 600 dinars during the 50 day period. Many find jobs and others start their own projects after joining the scheme.
Qaddah told 7Dnews that she signed up for the project to gain an income but also to clean the environment as she said the area in Irbid where she lived suffered from a proliferation of rubbish in streets and public places. She said the project not only helped her make money, but also benefited her neighbourhood, which had suffered from plastic, paper and other waste being disposed of irresponsibly.
“I was able to buy a fridge after joining the project and bought food and clothes for my children,” she said.
After completing the project, Qaddah is now working as a cleaner around Irbid contributing to the preservation of the city, which hosts a large number of Syrian refugees. According to official figures, Jordan is home to about 1.3 million displaced Syrians.
“It’s not shameful that women go out and work. I have no brother, father or husband to help so I have to find work. I’m happy and proud to do it. Now I know I am strong and can rely on myself to let my children live a normal life,” she said.
One of the key objectives of the project is to help contribute to the preservation of the environment by collecting waste and also generating income out of the collected rubbish, Saqalla said.
“Waste collection is an issue that municipalities in some areas face. Waste and dumps are a challenge and municipalities are overburdened and thus those who benefit from the project, including the refugees, help the preservation of the environment by cleaning the towns and areas where they live,” she said.
The project, she said, helps enhance the living conditions of Syrian refugees in Jordan, integrating them into society and making them friends, too.
Syrian refugee Amnah Turkmani said joining the project was helpful to generate an income and discuss the issues refugees and host communities face, including the need for cleaning the local environment. She also said she received health and safety training before starting her job as a cleaner.
“It was hard at the beginning to accept the idea of collecting waste, but I decided to do it so that I could get clothes for my children and put money towards rent, food and electricity and medicine for my mother,” she told 7Dnews.
“I do not feel like a stranger in this country…I have Jordanian friends from the team and I am still in contact with the Jordanian team leader. They have helped me a lot. Jordanians have been kind since the day we arrived,” she said.
She said the women who take part in the programme swap tips on childcare, saving water and reducing bills. She also said that since joining the programme, she has become more aware of her environment, and how to sort waste and keep the house clean.