Amman Center Stories: Megumi Uchino

June 19, 2018

Megumi visited Jordan on March 8-18, 2018 as part of the class, Social Work with Refugees and Displaced Persons: Global and Jordan Experience, led by Professor Mashura Akilova in the Columbia School of Social Work.

Jordan was the perfect place to learn about social work practices conducted toward refugee and displaced persons from different countries. As much as we tried to brief ourselves before the trip, seeing the practices on the field and talking with practitioners as well as refugees themselves gave us a tremendous amount of information we have never gained on campus. 

I benefited from all the organizations we visited since it is essential for all social workers to familiarize themselves with all-level intervention from macro (policy) level to micro (one-on-one, counseling) level. I benefited the most from visiting UNWRA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) the most since they told me the complexity of long-lasting refugee issues as well as the importance of facilitating participation and ownership of refugees.

One of the positive surprises that I had during the trip was the effectiveness of the Jordan Compact. The Compact was adopted in 2016 to strengthen the cooperation between EU and Jordan and to contribute to the improvement of living conditions of Syrian refugees and Jordanian population. The Compact was a “game-changer,” as one of UN staff put it, in the way that Jordanian government opened up additional employment opportunities for refugees in return for receiving additional funding from the international community and better access to the EU market. I have never heard of such an innovative framework to mobilize resources to respond to the protracted humanitarian crisis, and I truly admired the Jordanian government’s effort and diplomatic technique to negotiate and skillfully obtain what the country needed for further development. The benefits of the Compact are already seen through programs such as Jordan River Design, which provides 400 jobs to female refugees through the collaboration between Jordan River Foundation and IKEA.

Megumi Inline Photo

Before our trip, the colleagues at Columbia Global Centers | Amman helped us by connecting us to various agencies operating in the field for possible site visits and consultations. During our trip, we were given a space to hold meetings with practitioners in the center, as well as chance to learn about the center's activities.

I truly enjoyed this learning journey as part of this class. The trip to Jordan was by no doubt the highlight of the class. However, the process whereby we deepened our knowledge by peer learning style before the trip, shared our findings from the trip at CSSW Community Day and started building school-wide collaboration on migrants and refugee issues, was genuinely empowering. By taking advantage of the resources at the Amman Center, everyone in class became comfortable talking about the refugee issues and Jordan and learned how to utilize their research in social work practice. In addition to skills and knowledge, this trip and class gave me life-long peers, with whom we can support each other and congratulate each other's career toward working with refugees. I genuinely wish more students will take advantage of being in Columbia and expose themselves to new countries and cultures, to be the positive change in the world upon graduation.