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The Spring of New Hopes

Today is International Women’s Day. What better way to mark this day than by celebrating an incredible family in our Lamp Lifeboat Ladder project, in particular two inspiring, smart young women, both studying at university, whom I met during my recent trip to Jordan. Ahlam and Angham talked to me about their university studies and their hopes and dreams for the future. Ahlam and Angham are sisters originally from Syria who have been living in Jordan since 2013. They live together with their mother, father and two younger sisters and have just moved from Zarqa to Amman. They are candidates for resettlement to Canada as part of Lamp Lifeboat Ladder.

Ahlam is 21 years old and in her third year at the University of Jordan studying Mandarin. She is getting ready to start Level 4 of her studies. She tells me that if she passes she will then prepare for Level 5, and if her grades are good enough she will get a scholarship to continue her studies to Masters level. It seems likely Ahlam will succeed in this as she was already awarded an international scholarship to go on an exchange trip to China. Sadly, because of COVID-19 she was unable to travel there and the sponsors who were supporting her education stopped their funding, which was an incredible blow.

As part of Lamp Lifeboat Ladder’s holistic accompaniment approach, our support is helping Ahlam continue her studies. “There wouldn’t be any success stories if it were not for Jayne [International Project Director of Lamp Lifeboat Ladder] as she gave me hope when my sponsors abandoned me by helping me through university,” Ahlam said.

I asked her how she became interested in China, she said she had always been interested in China. Some of her friends were also interested and they had watched some YouTube videos to try and begin learning the language. “I always wanted to study a difficult language and Mandarin is very difficult! The tones are very hard to get right. In class once I made an error with the tone I used and my teacher became very annoyed! That was the worst thing I did!”

In her course, Ahlam learns about Chinese culture as well as the language, which is super interesting, for instance, “people don't drink cold water, only hot water.” Ahlam likes Chinese food as well, especially dumplings and the hot plate “where you cook it yourself!” Ahlam’s dream is to go and work for a company in Shanghai or Beijing, perhaps for a translation company as her skills will be very sought after. “When I graduate I want to go and work with a Reed Smith lawyer in the Hong Kong office! I have always wanted to travel the whole world!”

Clearly, language skills run in the family, because Angham is 19 years old and in her first year at the University of Jordan studying French and English. “I prefer learning French to English. I learnt a bit of English at school, just a little, but it’s hard. French is easier to learn and ever since I was a child, I have always wanted to go to Paris - it is still my dream to live and work there!” I asked her if she found French hard to learn, to which she immediately responded, “If you love the language, it isn't hard.”

At the moment, Angham doesn't have any support to travel to France to study the language there. But the University of Toronto has a language department, and Angham is hopeful that if she and her family get to Toronto, she will be able to study there and get a scholarship to Paris.

Education is extremely significant for Ahlam and Angham as they are the first women in their family ever to attend university - an achievement that deserves celebration! They are clearly dedicated to their studies as they “travel on the bus from Zarqa to Amman every day to get to university,” and “it takes around two hours on the bus each way.” Ahlam and Angham both dream of moving to Canada, studying there and making new friends.

About the author

Sophie McCann

Sophie McCann is a program director and advocate with experience in international development and human rights advocacy in the UK and internationally. She specializes in refugee and migrants’ rights and community-based mental health and gender programming. Sophie is part of the Lamp Lifeboat Ladder team focusing on organizational development and communications.

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