Hope Travels: AOI Takes Part in Collective Art Projects to Promote Wellness and Self-Expression in Jordan

Nancy Bartosz traveled to Amman, Jordan where she worked with local artists and organizations to experience how art can be expressive and therapeutic.

Creating hearts in the community art corridor in Amman, Jordan Photo: Nancy Bartosz

Creating hearts in the community art corridor in Amman, Jordan Photo: Nancy Bartosz

The country of Jordan has long been caught in the middle of the unrest from surrounding countries. However, Jordan itself has remained relatively unscathed despite having taken on over a million Syrian refugees. Amman, the capital, is an ancient city with a long-established culture and is one of the major tourist hubs in the Middle East. The residents of Amman have a strong sense of community that includes generous hospitality and mutual support.

Freshly painted rocks, decorated with positivity for the Kindness Rocks Project Photo: Nancy Bartosz

Freshly painted rocks, decorated with positivity for the Kindness Rocks Project Photo: Nancy Bartosz

Rather than fearing how the influx of tourists and refugees may affect that culture, organizations like the Nonprofit Alhadaf Training Center work to preserve and develop it through community support. As their website states, Alhadaf’s aim is to create “a more healthy community for a better future free of crime and terrorism” by providing aid to displaced children and families that have come to Jordan. The organization and its founder, Maran Mayaa, work to guide refugees towards a healthy new life by providing education and emotional support. They teach life skills and emotional healing courses and also provide art and trauma therapy.

This inspirational work immediately drew Nancy to the Alhadaf organization. Maran proved a gracious host and allowed Nancy to mesh her teaching roots with the Hope For The Day goal of community-driven emotional support. In classes on leadership, English, and positive self-image for teens, Nancy pitched in with mental health outreach and joined in with the art therapy. Since emotional support is already one of the core principles of Alhadaf, Nancy’s introduction of Hope For The Day-based mental health education fit in perfectly. She was also able to collaborate with Alhadaf in creating art, for which Nancy has an increasing appreciation:

“The more I learn about mental health, the more I recognize the value of self-expression strategies like art, music, fitness blended with self-care and the power of serving others. [Art projects] are making a difference because they offer tangible and positive outlets that build communities.” -Nancy Bartosz

The Alkalha Steps Mural Photo: Nancy Bartosz

The Alkalha Steps Mural Photo: Nancy Bartosz

While Nancy regularly took part in art therapy sessions such as creating mandalas, her time in Jordan centered around two primary art projects: Kindness Rocks and a “Hope” mural in Alhadaf’s community art corridor. Kindness Rocks have cropped up several times during Nancy’s Hope Travels journey as an effective means of self-expression and community support through simple but meaningful messages painted on the rocks. In Jordan the relationship became more formal as the founder of the Kindness Rocks Project, Megan Murphy, happily became supported the creation of Kindness Rocks in Amman during several sessions at the Alhadaf center.

Much of the Alhadaf Training Center is covered in murals, primarily painted by the orphan or refugee children from the center whose works show a better, more peaceful world. The rest of Amman is similarly adorned with brilliant pieces of street art evoking optimism and inspiration. The Zaizafoun Art Café and the community art corridor at the Alkalha Steps exemplified that aspect of Amman. At the café, Nancy met Abeer a university student and her friend Telek who volunteers at the corridor. Those two helped design the mural alongside Jordanian artist Abd Alrahman. Abd, Abeer and the children from Alhadaf all joined in to paint the mural while also painting more rocks for the new Kindness Rocks Garden that was added to the art corridor. The mural and the whole corridor acted as means of community and collective expression. Children were eager to share the meanings behind their paintings all centered around optimism and hope.

The Alhadaf Training Center and the artists from Jordan provided Nancy with a chance to experience the country’s strength of community and the generosity displayed towards the massive refugee population. For those refugees and local Jordanians alike, the value placed upon mental health and self expression is well established and proved an ideal foundation for a lasting Hope For The Day community.

The next country Nancy visits is Mauritania which will be covered in two weeks. Learn more about Nancy’s journey on her blog. Join the Hope Travels facebook group and learn how you can become a Hope For The Day Agent of Impact. Check out our continually updated list of Hope Travels partners here.

Jackson Kilpatrick