Heather Murphy, Senior Program Officer, Global Partnerships at Institute of International Education shares her experiences from a recent visit to Jordan and Lebanon.
Last month I had the pleasure to traveling to Jordan and Lebanon with my colleague Stacey Ramirez to conduct site visits for E-Mediat. Jordan and Lebanon both have a special place in my heart for different reasons. Jordan was the first country I visited in the Middle East back in 2008 when I started working at IIE on the Women in Technology program. I had only been at IIE for a month before we started planning the trip! Lebanon is special to me because it is one of the countries that I visit most often for work and I long ago fell in love with the land, people and the food! So it was exciting to return working under a new program, seeing old faces along with the new!
In Jordan I had the privilege to travel out to the rural regions and observe the E-Mediat trainings. It was an amazing opportunity to meet with the participants and hear firsthand accounts of the impact of the E-Mediat training. The organizations in Jordan are true testaments to the power of social media for positive change!
I also had the opportunity to meet with old friends from the Women in Technology program as well as conduct outreach for the TechWomen program. I am really excited to see how many women from Jordan apply as I met so many amazing technical women. I packed a great deal into only four days!
Following Jordan, Stacey and I flew directly to Beirut and upon landing, were whisked off to a sumptuous Lebanese lunch. For those of you who have not had the privilege of enjoying Lebanese food, I encourage you to look up your closest restaurant-it is simply fantastic! It was a wonderful way to kick off our visit. The next five days were jammed packed with meetings, site visits, and trainings; I barely had time to breath! I traveled up to Tripoli to meet with participant NGOs and hear about their work. Tripoli is home to some of the most dynamic NGOs who are doing incredibly compelling work tackling issues of peace, religion and education. It was a privilege to meet them and see their centers. I only wish I could have stayed there longer! One exciting moment happened during a meeting when we got a call saying that the Lebanese Prime Minister, Najib Makati, who was in Tripoli at the time, wanted to meet us! We hurried over there, one does not keep a PM waiting, and had the chance to talk with him for a short time about the program and ways in which we could increase the buy in and support from local government agencies.
On the one day off we had, a few of us from the program traveled up north to the beautiful town of Baalbek which is home to some of the most fantastic Roman ruins I have ever seen, and I have seen quite a few! The weather was perfect and I spent the better part of a day rambling around the ruins and standing in the same buildings as Romans did thousands of years ago, it was thrilling. And of course we topped the visit with more delicious food.
I was sad to leave, but it was such a wonderful opportunity to meet with E-Mediat participants in both Jordan and Lebanon and hear them speak so candidly about their hopes for the future of their NGOs, communities and country. They are such incredible forces for positive change and I am so proud of their work and I am confident that they will only continue to grow and play a larger role in shaping their counties’ futures. And I look forward to the day when I return. In the meantime I am going to work on my cooking skills using several of the local recipes given to me!