The Prince of Wales visits youth and leaders at Zaatari Village

Jordan, Syria

February 9, 2015

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  • Mercy Corps' Jordan Country Director Rob Maroni meets with The Prince of Wales to describe the conflict management program and why it's important to the community. Photo: Georg Schaumberger for Mercy Corps

In north Jordan, Zaatari Village sits just a few minutes from Zaatari refugee camp, which is now home to more than 80,000 refugees. More than 700,000 officially-registered Syrian refugees live in Jordan, waiting for a day when they can finally return home.

Zaatari Village, where both Jordanians and Syrian refugees now live, has seen its population double since the start of the Syrian crisis in March 2011.

As a result, competition for jobs and demand for local services — such as water, education and health care — have both increased, leading to tensions between the Jordanian host community and its new Syrian residents.

As part of a six-day tour of the Middle East, The Prince of Wales visited Zaatari Village over the weekend.

The Prince learned how training from Mercy Corps is helping Jordanians and Syrian refugees work together to resolve tensions in their community. The Prince was also joined by the UK Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening.

The Prince meets just a few of the program's Syrian and Jordanian community leaders. They have all received training from Mercy Corps on how to better-resolve community conflicts and tensions. Photo: Georg Schaumberger for Mercy Corps.

Since 2013, Mercy Corps has led conflict-management training for community leaders and the local government in Zaatari Village. This training helps leaders identify the source of a problem, deal with any conflict that arises and propose potential solutions.

Community leaders include both Jordanian and Syrian men, women and youth. Working together, the leaders have already accomplished a great deal. The village now has better street lighting, a community sports field and a new addition to the local school for girls.

At the community's new sports field, The Prince joins in on the fun with local Syrian and Jordanian youth. Photo: Henk Bos for Mercy Corps

“These projects have helped us to solve a lot of problems, especially with the youth who had nothing to do and would just sit in the streets,” said Nidal Alkhadi, a Jordanian community leader who has been involved in the Mercy Corps program for two years.

“We are changing the community from the roots up, and are now able to foresee potential problems in the future.”

Hassan Saleh, a Syrian community leader who has lived in the village for one year said, “We try to meet the needs and demands of the community here, to strike a balance. The children especially were facing problems – not enough space in schools and places to play."

Community leaders knew that healthy play was important for young people living in Zaatari Village, so one of the projects they proposed was the new sports field, where both Syrian and Jordanian kids can come together to play. Photo: Henk Bos for Mercy Corps.

Hassan also spoke about his hope for the future of Syrian children, who will be tasked with rebuilding their home country. "The Syrian child has lost his dreams, safety and his environment — we need to focus on these children."

With the war in Syria nearing the four-year mark, refugees have no way of knowing when it might be safe to return home. Because of their uncertain future, it’s important that Syrian refugees and their Jordanian neighbors learn how to resolve conflict as a cohesive community.

Mercy Corps’ conflict-management program is helping refugees and their neighbors work together in 12 different communities in Jordan. By putting their differences aside, the leaders of Zaatari Village have made real progress in improving the place that they call home.

We are also working to keep Syrian refugees and Jordanians safe and healthy by providing shelter, water, warm clothing and blankets, and psychosocial support for children. Mercy Corps programs in Jordan currently benefit more than 1.1 million people.