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Nour Al Barakah: Empowering the youth in Amman

Nour Al Barakah: An inclusive initiative empowering Amman's youth
4 min read
20 June, 2024
Since 2009, Nour Al Barakah in Amman has advocated for the well-being of young adults, including those with disabilities, through transformative activities.

It is an ordinary Monday afternoon in Amman in the Al Rabiya neighbourhood. But as you move away from the daily dusty traffic, you hear loud pop music, laughter, and voices, suggesting the sounds of a home outdoor party.

As you reach the Princess Iman public garden, the tidy bushes, flowers, handicrafts, and a small one-story building made of recycled materials attract you with the smell of fresh ginger and orange, hints of cardamom tea, and natural paint colours.

At the centre of a football pitch, people of different ages, genders, and skills complete the beautiful atmosphere with joy and togetherness.

Welcome to Nour Al Barakah (NAB) – a Light of Blessing – an organisation capable of transforming ordinary yoga group sessions into extraordinary events for its members.

Founded by a group of parents in 2009, the NAB Society was established to help young adults with intellectual disabilities improve their skills and well-being through collective activities.

“Our initial aim was to ensure our kids didn't feel alone,” explains Muna, a board member of NAB. She highlights that the organisation was created in a society that, despite some recent advances, is still not fully prepared to include persons with special needs. 

“I felt lost for too long, not knowing how our kids could find space outside the home. Some of us tried to integrate them into the labour market, but the vast majority would just continue to hide them at home,” Muna adds. 

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NAB's evolution and impact

Alongside seven other mothers who faced similar challenges, they collectively decided it was time to take action.

Brainstorming various ideas, they found a common interest in nature, leading them to organise their first activities: gardening, farming, and sports.

“We chose those not only because of their recognised therapeutic value, but also because our young men and women started to get involved in projects that contributed to the quality of life in the local area,” Muna comments.

After initially starting in a small space, NAB secured the use of Princess Iman garden in the Al Rabiya neighborhood from the capital’s municipality, where the group continues to thrive today.

Since then, the small group of parents has evolved into an organisation with over 50 members. Together, they create a safe and sociable environment that facilitates interaction for individuals with special needs within both their own community and the larger community.

NAB activities for individuals with special needs [NAB Facebook page]

Their activities have expanded to include several new projects, such as producing organic fruits and vegetables and high-quality organic compost. This compost became a source of income for the organisation, as many farmers were purchasing it.

Despite the sudden halt of this activity last year due to new municipal regulations, NAB has continued its environmental initiatives.

“With the principle of reduce, reuse, and recycle, we did not only want to carry out recreational activities for our kids, but we also wanted to send messages to society.” 

To this aim, since 2012, the society has collaborated with local producers to establish Jordan’s first farmer’s market, now called the Nour Al Barakah Farmers' Market.

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Marketplace innovations: Organic farming and artisan delights

Every Saturday, the market transforms the public garden into a vibrant display of flavours and colours, bringing together artisans, farmers, and small businesses run by both Jordanians and refugees.

Among them is Green Apple, a pioneer of organic farming in Jordan. Established in 2016 by Lufti Abdelqader, a Jordanian who aimed to challenge local food habits, this family business found its place at the Farmers’ Market.

"I needed to build relationships and explain the rationale behind organic production and consumption," Lufti shared during a market visit.

"In Jordanian culture, people are accustomed to buying in large quantities because 'the fridge must always be full.'"

Gradually, Green Apple expanded its farm, opened a store, and now serves hundreds of customers through an online service as well.

NAB Farmers Market [NAB Facebook page]

A few steps further stands Jamileh with her date delights, dipped in chocolate and covered with crunchy nuts, coconut, and pistachio.

Jamileh, a female Palestinian farmer who has been producing and selling dates between Jericho and Jerusalem for generations, did not anticipate settling in Jordan until last October, when she was just visiting.

“I could not return to Palestine due to the escalating tensions following the start of the Gaza war,” Jamileh explains.

“Despite this geographical shift, my commitment to crafting delights with the same spirit is another way to honour Palestinian beauty and resilience.”

Partnering with such businesses highlights Nour Al Barakah’s transformation from a simple group of parents “who just wanted our kids happy” to an organisation that, despite its size – “our wish is to remain small and united as we are” – can play a positive societal role.

Among other initiatives, they promote an economic model that prioritises impact over profit.

At NAB, members engage in a blend of paid roles, such as sports activity trainers, and collaborate with solidarity and business entities to support their initiatives.

Moreover, Muna and the other parents dedicate themselves full-time to volunteering. “But it’s important to note that we don’t consider this a job; for us, it’s pure joy!”

Stefano Nanni is an Italian freelance journalist with a background in the aid sector