Jordan (MNN) – Tent Schools International is in the middle of its giving campaign. During this year’s campaign, the ministry wants to focus on raising funds for a secondary school for displaced Iraqi youth in Jordan.
Displaced Iraqi Youth in Jordan
Tent Schools is partnering with the Good Shepherd Center to serve 117 Iraqi refugee kids whose families fled their homes due to ISIS activity. Unfortunately, they do not have refugee status in Jordan, and if things stay that way, the traumatic experiences these kids experienced will reap destructive consequences.
Tent Schools’ Executive Director Emily Klooster says staistically, refugee kids are at higher risk of destructive habits such as suicide and depression. They are also more easily lured into a life of extremism.
To make a bad situation worse, since many of these kids are without refugee status, they are often unable to attend public schools in Jordan. Furthermore, these kids and their families face cruel biases in their country of refuge.
“A lot of times these kids are bullied by kids who have been born and [have] grown up in Jordan their whole lives. They’re ostracized a bit, [both] their families as well as the kids once they’re in class, so our partner is a church that came in and established this school for them,” Emily Klooster says.
Need for Secondary School
Tent Schools’ partners in Jordan, particularly the Good Shepherd Center, know how to best serve displaced Iraqi families. They understand the political and religious landscape and how to respectfully navigate the culture while having conversations about Christ in a safe and sensitive way.
“Our partners are trained to deal with the special challenges of children who’ve experienced trauma. They really provide a lot of trauma-informed, informed services for the kids. These are all options that these kids would not be receiving in a public-school setting,” Klooster explains.
However, this help ends when kids reach secondary school. Currently, there are no secondary school options for Iraqi children unable to attend public school. This prevents them from attending college and potentially gaining both work and life skills to help them build a healthy, productive life.
“These older kids, in the absence of education…risk long term psychological effects of untreated traumatic experiences that they may still be dealing with as they as they get older. They risk falling into destructive habits like drugs and alcohol abuse. They are definitely at a higher risk, having been displaced, of depression, suicide, not being able to see a path out” Klooster explains.
“Finally, they do risk being pulled in by extremists to try to convert them into things like ISIS activity back in their home country if they feel lost. In Jordan, there is that chance that they could be pulled back into a situation in Iraq with extremist if they feel there’s no other option for them in their future.”
What Leads to Extremism?
The May 2019 American Enterprise Institute report on “Tackling Terrorists’ Exploitation of Youth” (TTEY) concludes youth voluntarily join extremists groups for a range of reasons. However, it explicitly cites the following drives: “search for group-based identity; ideological appeal of the group; real or perceived exclusion, grievance, or cultural threat; potential for economic gain or long-term economic stability; [and] prospects of fame, glory, or respect; personal connections, including family and friendship networks” (pg 4).
The TTEY report also states certain factors increase youth’s recruitment vulnerability, such as: “geographic proximity to conflict; economic vulnerability; social or political marginalization; permissive family and social networks, and exposure to violent extremist propaganda” (pg 7).
To learn more about TTEY and the information provided above, click here.
Given this information, displaced Iraqi youth in Jordan are clearly prime targets for extremist recruitment. To eliminate extremism, the cycle which creates extremism needs to be broken.
“We really are trying to bridge this educational gap for them, because we feel it’s a very practical way to address that issue, the issue of extremism, as well as all of the other issues I talked about,” Klooster says.
Christians can help break this cycle and make a difference alongside Tent Schools through prayer, advocacy, and giving. If you would, pray for Tent Schools to raise the necessary funds to build and equip this secondary school.
Help End The Cycle
Tent Schools is focusing on funds to build the school because Klooster says there are already excellent educators working with partners and ready to teach. But to continue their work of educating and offering tools to help Iraqi children process their experiences and build better futures, funds are needed.
Also, pray for kids in their final year at the Good Shepherd Center as they navigate and wonder what the future holds without a current option for secondary school.
Please pray for these kids’ guidance and for their parents who are traveling this path with them. Finally, pray these kids will know they are deeply cared for and loved. Pray they know God loves them and values them “in every possible way”.
To financially support the process of bringing this secondary school with the Good Shepherd Center into existence, please consider giving here.
Another option to help is to join Tent Schools’ Circle of Friends by giving at least $15 a month to support Tent Schools’ work. To join the Circle of Friends, click here.
Learn more about Tent Schools’ partnership with Good Shepherd Center here.
Header photo courtesy of Tent Schools International.