The Value of Voice

By Ellis Garey, Intern at ARDD-Legal Aid

I came to Jordan in January knowing little about Jordanian culture, and nothing about ARDD-Legal Aid, the organization I would spend a significant portion of my time in the Middle East working with. When I was initially brought on to the Voice team of ARDD-Legal Aid, I expected my responsibilities to largely revolve around correcting English translations, but could not have been more wrong. Instead, I have spent the last four months aiding in drafting organization profiles, conducting and contributing to research on the status of Syrian refugees in both urban host communities as well as in Za’atari, learning about Arab media, and even visiting the camp itself. Above all this, I got to be a part of a team that is addressing the Syrian refugee crisis in an innovative and instrumental way.

At its conception, Voice aimed to enlarge the focus of local and international media to include the humanitarian aspect. In short, instead of focusing solely on the political implications of the conflict in Syria, Voice seeks out stories that reflect the human suffering and struggles caused by the conflict. Voice functions inside Za’atari camp and outside the camp in urban host communities through committees and citizen journalists. Committees are formed in Za’atari and in urban host communities. The committees are divided by gender and composed of only adults. The Voice team gives awareness raising sessions in the committees, and then opens up for group discussion. Topics in the committees range from Women’s Rights to Health and Sanitation. During my visit to Za’atari, I got to experience our work in the field first hand. Our team, especially Rana, has fostered relationships within the camp that few, if any, international organizations can boast. In the urban communities, the Voice team works with the help of our citizen journalists, Syrian refugee women who collect stories for publication on our blog. Stephanie works tirelessly to bring the stories we collect to local and international media attention, while Mahmoud bridges the language gap of our audience, translating stories from Arabic to English and English to Arabic.

The Voice project has given Syrian refugees a platform to reach the international community and has reaffirmed my belief that research and exposure have the power to ensure that marginalized members of society are not silenced.Though the Voice project does not deliver direct aid in terms of resources or monetary support, it helps to restore power and freedom to each Syrian refugee it touches. Having a voice, and the power to share one’s beliefs and concerns, is arguably the most important right of all; our project helps guarantee that Syrian voices will be heard in the hopes that people will begin to listen.

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