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Local initiative spruces up East Amman neighbourhoods

By Suzanna Goussous - Jan 06,2016 - Last updated at Jan 07,2016

Harra NGO works with local communities and volunteers specialised in the architectural, landscaping, civil engineering, educational, social and environmental fields to revamp neighbourhoods in Jordan (Photo courtesy of Harra)

AMMAN — A local initiative is rejuvenating several neighbourhoods in the Kingdom, with the aim of adding more colour to them and encouraging residents to work together to improve their environment.

Harra NGO, which translates into “neighbourhood”, has so far renovated five areas in East Amman, with the most recent efforts culminating this week in Al Ashrafiyeh and Jabal Al Jofeh, according to Mohammad Abu Amirah, who launched the initiative.

“The plan to revamp marginalised areas around the Kingdom was created in 2006, with each neighbourhood taking around three to five years to renovate,” he told The Jordan Times.

Abu Amirah said the cost of renovating each neighbourhood amounts to around JD18,000-20,000. 

“We have around 17 volunteers who are specialised in the architectural, landscaping, civil engineering, educational, social and environmental fields. However, our main volunteers are the residents of each neighbourhood we visit”.

Volunteers and area residents have collaborated to repair broken walls, sidewalks and old houses in each neighbourhood and to beautify their surroundings, taking into account the physical, social and economic identity of each locality and the needs of its inhabitants, according to Abu Amirah.

For example, flowers and trees that need relatively little water were planted in outdoor spaces due to the lack of water resources in some areas.

“We used the grey water system to water the plants. It is undrinkable, so it is used to cultivate the plants,” he explained.

Abu Amirah noted that an estimated 80 families benefited from the renovations in each neighbourhood.

“By visiting each area and getting involved with its residents, we can identify their problems and draw up a plan and set a budget to assist municipalities. We aim to teach individuals to make decisions by using an in-field training method, not lectures”.

“When residents participate in beautifying their surroundings, they get more attached to the place and want to start fixing the problems they face,” Abu Amirah said.

He noted that the NGO has helped reduce social violence in the five renovated districts in East Amman because “residents met their neighbours — they are not strangers anymore”, sharing skills and services with each other.

Harra  engages in social as well as physical renovations of neighbourhoods, such as offering educational services.

 “We evaluated the levels of education of children and mothers in each household, and we are now offering classes for the first six years of the first six elementary years of school,” Abu Amirah said.

He emphasised that mothers and children have to attend the classes together, in order to enable women in “marginalised” areas to provide their children with a proper education. 

Around 120 mothers and 350 children graduated from the courses, which are now taught by volunteers at three schools in East Amman, he noted.

“This is a change cycle... to spread optimism among the residents so they can get involved in finding solutions to local problems,” Abu Amirah concluded.

“When they graduate and participate in the world outside their neighbourhood, they will always remember to act in a positive manner.”


For more information on participating as a volunteer, the initiative organisers can be reached on their Facebook page: 

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