If you are trying to decide on a location for volunteering abroad, look to Jordan for a fascinating and distinct option. Volunteering in Jordan will give you the chance to see a new perspective on Islamic society in one of the most laid back and liberal nations in the Middle East, while experiencing the depth of history in a land laced with the legacies of the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Arab empires. A society growing at an exceptional rate, those who volunteer in Jordan will find plenty of progressive projects to contribute to.
Amman is the capital and largest city with the most opportunities to volunteer in Jordan. This city is not only the governmental capital, but the culinary capital of Jordan. You are likely to find the best falafel of your life at one of the many restaurants. As a volunteer in Amman, you will find opportunities to be swept up in the growing social movements that make Jordan such a fascinating destination. In your downtime, you will be encouraged to join the nightly crowds of locals making their way to coffeeshops in the bustling downtown and during the day you can enjoy the Roman architecture still explicitly gracing the city’s streets.
Irbid, the second largest city in the country, offers a plethora of options for volunteering abroad in Jordan. It is known as the nation’s university town, which keeps it young and full of new ideas; Irbid even boasts the Guinness World Record for the most internet cafes. It is a hot spot for volunteers because of the university setting and the many organizations that spring out of the environment focused on growth and social change. Irbid has some of the most fascinating museums in Jordan and is a great starting point for sightseeing, such as traveling to the ancient Ajlun castle or visiting the Dead Sea.
Aqaba is the only port city in Jordan as it sits on the Red Sea. There are several options for volunteers in different arenas. You can volunteer in the tourism industry as this city has access to colorful coral reefs and the locals are trying to expand this industry. There are also options to work on projects with local NGOs. The beaches provide an escape from the gruel of travel and city life and there is a notable Marine Park.
Volunteering in Jordan
The most popular area of volunteer work in Jordan are: youth empowerment, social work, and awareness raising. There are a lot of opportunities to work with youth in Jordan, as local schools desperately need additional support, not the mention half of the population is under the age of 30. There are also opportunities to work with disabled youth especially as Jordan is building up support systems for individuals with disabilities. Women’s rights and work with refugees are popular placements within the realm of social work volunteering in Jordan, since the Middle East has been in the international spotlight concerning women’s issues and Jordan hosts a high number of Palestinian and Iraqi refugees.
Other opportunities for volunteering abroad in Jordan include community development, construction, healthcare, tourism, and work with Bedouin tribes. The nation has put a focus on sharing their cultural capital recently, so there are many options for volunteer work in Jordan that integrate learning customs and traditions.
Volunteer placements in Jordan can range in length from two weeks to multiple months. Although speaking Arabic would be extremely helpful during volunteer work in Jordan, it is not required in most volunteer programs. However, volunteers should be aware that Arabic and English are the most commonly spoken languages in the country. As a volunteer in Jordan, it is important to remember that the communication style is very direct and typically it is appropriate to ask a lot of personal questions, especially regarding family.
Salary & Costs
Most individuals will have to pay a program fee to volunteer in Jordan, which will cover coordination of a volunteer placement and a variety of other things depending on the program. If you decide to go through a grassroots organization, you will most often need to pay your own way too. There are some exchange programs in which you can teach English to a family and live with them for free, however.
There has been a boom in the costs of living in Jordan as it has become a summer getaway for Middle Eastern elites as well as millions of tourists in the late spring. You can think of the general living costs as about half of what you would pay for the same amenities in New York City, as an example. Even with the economic boom, a bus ticket is less than a dollar, rent per month can run between $300 to $1,000. A loaf of bread is as cheap as $.50 cents while cheese runs about $7. It is generally very simple to exchange money in Jordan and many ATMs connect to foreign banks. The local form of money is called the Jordanian Dinar and the exchange rate is $1 USD to $1.41 JOD.
Accommodation & Visas
Depending on the type of volunteer program you choose, you may stay at a homestay with a local family, in an apartment (some programs have a group apartments for volunteers) or in a hotel or hostel.
Visas are required to volunteer abroad in Jordan. Depending on your home country, you either need to obtain a visa before your trip or you can buy one in the airport upon arrival; for a single-entry visa the cost is about $56 while multiple entry visas are more expensive. Both visas last 30 days and if you plan to stay longer you will need to get a visa extension in country. After six months, all visitors in Jordan must leave unless they have residency status. Some travelers leave and visit another country then return in order to reset their visa clock.
Benefits & Challenges
Safety. There is a heightened stigma to visiting the Middle East, however, Jordan is considered relatively safe, and even petty crimes are even uncommon in the capital Amman. Those who choose to volunteer in Jordan should avoid attending or watching any demonstrations to avoid getting involved in any conflict.
Social Life. If you are a female traveling solo, Jordan is considered safe but there are a few social norms you should be aware of. One of the most important is to dress appropriately, covering at least your shoulders and knees and preferably all of your arms and legs. It is culturally appropriate for Jordanians to stare but it is not meant as threatening or crude. However, there should be physical distance kept between men and women and any touching is frowned upon.
Jordan is considered a very well-educated country that is striving to change perceptions on Islamic lifestyles as well as to share their culture. So as a volunteer in Jordan, you will have the opportunity to be at the forefront of social change and be an agent in sharing the local cultural heritage.