November Field Notes from Helena

American FRRME- COVID-19 Relief Strategy Update:

American FRRME has continued to implement all government-imposed criteria necessary to safely reopen The 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 COVID-19 Update:

  • Due to the increased number of COVID-19 cases in Jordan, lockdowns and Internet restrictions have continued.
  • Complete lockdown started on Tuesday, November 10th, and will remain in place until determined by the government.
  • American FRRME is doing all we can to provide hope and mental health initiatives during this challenging time.
  • The Olive Tree Center’s ability to remain open has been instrumental and has provided much-needed support and hope.
  • Depression across the country is on the rise, and safely enabling refugees to get out of their very small accommodation and give them activities and classes to engage in has been invaluable.

Olive Tree Center Updates:

  • English language (conversation & grammar) beginner, intermediate and advanced, music and art classes continued throughout October. Helena Scott resumed conversational English classes post quarantine. Students are very happy with the new “ESL” (English as a second language) curriculum.
  • Guitar classes for children have expanded in order to keep class sizes small to comply to COVID-19  restrictions.
  • Piano classes have started and have become very popular.  Mahmoud Omar, a local artist, agreed to start weekly adult art classes. The community is very excited about the possibility of photography classes.
  • The OTC hosted cosmetology workshops for small and safe class sizes for the Iraqi women, led by Ibtisam, an Iraqi refugee with years of salon/beauty care experience. The refugee women asked for this class as they are eager to learn skills they can use for new jobs (most had their education disrupted) and they are interested in certificates for various trades. The workshop took place every Saturday throughout the month and will continue.
  • There is a high demand for computer skills classes. Refugees are very interested in learning basic computer skills such as typing, spreadsheets, PowerPoint, etc. This will equip them for a variety of jobs.
  • Helena Scott received donations from the US embassy this past month and distributed them at the Olive Tree Center.



Olive Tree Center Workshops:

  • American FRRME currently supports a woodworking workshop at the Nazarene Church in Amman. The refugee men work on handicrafts such as crosses, trays, bowls, small vases, and other wood items.
  • Exercise classes have been established on the roof of the Olive Tree Center. Yoga teacher volunteers are ready to start once the lockdown is lifted.
  • American FRRME has a health initiative and provides fruit and healthy snacks at the Olive Tree Center.
  • Naseem, the son of artist Mahmoud, is a personal trainer and has volunteered to provide fitness classes for the youth.

Garden Project:

The garden continues to flourish and provides fresh produce to refugee families on a rotating basis every Friday. New autumn crops were planted and the garden is now producing garlic, green peppers, lettuce, sweet potatoes. The garden also has a large pomegranate tree, which is bearing fruit. Azad continues to lead this project and has been teaching his son and other refugee men his “green thumb” techniques. This project is instrumental in incorporating the refugee men into community life, providing much needed and appreciated skills and a sense of pride in their work and contribution to the community.


Partnership Updates:

Nazarene Church, Pastor Zaki

Via the Nazarene Church partnership, American FRRME continues to support the Youth Empowerment and Trauma Healing Center which reopened in September.
Adjustments to the operations of the Center have been made to ensure the safety of the church and refugee communities during COVID-19. Cooking classes now take place at homes with small numbers in attendance. Other classes continue (English language, IT, woodworking,  sewing/knitting) with strict adherence to small class size attendance.

Syrian Orthodox Church, Father Benjamin

Relief efforts continue to reach the Iraqi refugee families American FRRME supports via the Orthodox Church. This support is provided in the form of food packages, medical assistance when possible, immigration support, and welfare home visits while closely mitigating risk exposure to COVID19. Father Benjamin presided over the funeral of Abu San (a refugee who sadly passed away a few weeks ago.) As a  member of the Syrian Orthodox Church, Abu San, and his entire family were active members of the church community in Madaba and participants at the OTC. American FRRME had previously provided critical medical support to Abu San, but unfortunately, he passed away.
Assemblies of God Church, Madaba, Pastor Yoo

American FRRME continues to support the refugee community in Madaba with food coupons, transportation to church,  youth group support, mask making, garden projects, support groups, and “empowerment” projects. Unfortunately, in October, the refugee community in Madaba had two deaths, both from kidney failure. American FRRME provided family support to both families to help during these difficult times and extended the organization’s condolences and prayers. The families appreciate all American FRRME did to help them attain fair and accurate medical treatment despite the many obstacles.
Greek Catholic Church, Fuheis, Father Bolis

All other support to the Greek Catholic Church was cut off. American FRRME is currently the only charity supporting the Greek Catholic church in Fuheis.

Mask Making Project:

COVID-19 surged in Jordan this fall, and October saw a further increase in positive cases, as well as government restrictions. The ongoing mask-making project is much needed and appreciated. Masks are required by law to enter into any building, without which heavy fines are issued. The masks also enable the refugees to attend church, do their grocery shopping, and attend classes and so far have protected against the spread of the corona into the community in Madaba. In Hashem al Shamali, a poor area of Amman, the need for masks and education remains high.


OTC “American Thanksgiving”:

If lockdown allows, there is the possibility of hosting a small American Thanksgiving for the refugees to give them a taste of American culture.