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Field Notes from Helena

October 16, 2020

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American FRRME- COVID-19 Relief Strategy Update:

American FRRME has continued to implement all government-imposed criteria necessary to safely reopen Olive Tree Center. This includes hand sanitizer being mounted on walls, regular cleaning, mask-wearing, regulation of class and center attendance, and social distancing implemented in all classes.


Olive Tree Center as a Relief Hub During COVID-19 and Update:

  • Local churches remain open and the masks being produced at the Olive Tree Center are vital in order to enable refugees to go to church safely and in compliance with the government mandate.
  • Support groups at the Olive Tree Center continue online but, have started making the shift back to in-person small groups, as restrictions in Jordan ease.
  • Clothing distributions and support are still ongoing at the Olive Tree Center.
  • English language (conversation & grammar) beginner, intermediate and advanced, music and art classes resumed and provide a much-needed respite from COVID-19 restricted daily life.
  • Guitar classes for children commenced while being closely monitored and are held in small class sizes.
  • Cooking and sewing classes are still ongoing at the Center also with reduced size classes and highly regulated COVID-19 prevention tactics in place.
    Workshops at Olive Tree Center:
  • Upon the reopening of the Olive Tree Center on September 1st, the Olive Tree Center has continued to expand its offerings of workshops to benefit the mental health of the refugee community. There are future plans in place for the establishment of exercise classes on the roof of the Olive Tree Center that will enable the women to exercise in an environment that they feel comfortable in. Volunteer yoga instructors are ready to start in October after the two-week lockdown is lifted. In the beginning, this will be a reduced class size, for women only,  then we will be offering a men’s only class.

Garden Project:

The ‘Garden of Hope’ continues to provide fresh vegetables to supplement the refugees’ weekly food supply. Tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, chard, zucchini, and various herbs are the current staples provided weekly to rotating refugee families in the community. The garden continues to serve as a mental health initiative, providing a sense of accomplishment, exercise, and community spirit to all involved, particularly as a means to support the male refugees. Also, September marked the end of the growing season for certain vegetables, and newer seasonal crops are to be planted this October in their place.

Expansion of ‘Garden of Hope’ at Other Partnership Churches: When the OTC officially reopened on September 1st, we were able to live stream traditional Iraqi cooking classes by refugees and host cooking classes to obtain donations. This gave the diplomat and ex-pat communities a “taste of Iraq” through delicious cooking and a means to donate.

Youth Activities:

Trauma healing workshops and increased counseling services in the current environment of COVID-19 continue to provide much needed responsive and adaptive support, which has not only fueled the refugee communities physically but is providing mental health support, along with empowerment initiatives. Azad, the head gardener, and Riveen, the lead on the fundraising appeal, along with Leka leading the mask making efforts, are just three of many examples of American FRRME providing “hope, help, and healing”.

The need for this support remains great and all communities continue to be appreciative and have become more involved and excited as the efforts continue to grow and make a significant impact across the refugee communities.

Partnership Updates:

Nazarene Church; Pastor Zaki

American FRRME continues to provide food packages and supplies to the refugees who attend the Nazarene Church. We also send dire food packages and hygiene kits to Syrian refugees in Mafraq and to Jordanians in need.

Syrian Orthodox Church; Father Benjamin

Relief efforts continue to reach 583 families in the Syrian Orthodox Church, through the support of American FRRME.

Assemblies of God Church, Madaba; Pastor Yoo

In Madaba, 120 families attend the Full Gospel Church. These families are recipients of the support of American FRRME through food coupons, transportation to church services, garden projects, support groups, and empowerment projects.

Greek Catholic Church, Fuheis; Father Bolis

The Greek Catholic Church, in Fuheis, with aid from American FRRME, continues to support refugee families. There are currently 250 refugee families who receive food coupons from local grocery stores. This has been vital during Covid-19 when most people have been unable to work their “under the table” jobs that had previously helped them to buy food.


Proposed Initiatives:

  • The Proposed Establishment of the General David E. Greer Scholarship Fund. In loving memory of General Greer’s commitment to service and education, a tribute to his legacy would be an annual scholarship that would enable dedicated, hardworking Iraqi refugee students to attend school. This scholarship would enable students who do not have the opportunity to study, access to education. This was very important to General Greer’s vision of helping the refugees that American FRRME supports to empower themselves and improve their lives through learning.
  • After a discussion with American FRRME Executive Director, Susan Greer, an idea was proposed to provide trustees with “American FRRME” masks made by refugees for all board members at the annual December meeting in Washington, DC. Leka continues to lead the mask making initiative in Madaba. This operation has grown and now community members also take other items with sewing/stitching needs to Leka to mend. Having access to a sewing machine has enabled her to further support the community and her family as well as spearhead efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.
  • Possible creation of woodworking classes being held at the Olive Tree Center for continued involvement and the empowerment of refugee men.

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