Prosperous Aqaba attracts more than 500,000 visitors to its beaches and luxury seaside resorts each year. In spite of the wealth brought to the city by tourism, many are living in poverty and hardship, particularly the thousands of Palestinian refugees and many young Jordanians struggling to find employment.
We began working in the region in 1991, providing homes for orphaned children and support for fragile families.
Many challenges remain in a thriving tourist destination
Aqaba, with its population of nearly 110,000, is located 350 kilometres from the Jordanian capital, Amman, and enjoys a warmer winter climate and sea breezes in the hot summer months. The city is a major tourist destination due to its rich marine life and beaches and home to many of Jordan’s luxury resorts and ‘mega projects’ including theme parks, marinas and golf courses.
Jordan has a stable economy and is developing at a rapid pace, but in spite of this, unemployment levels are high, particularly among young people. Cultural expectations are also an obstacle for women looking to gain employment; for instance, western hotels are less likely to employ veiled women in jobs that require interaction with hotel guests. With reduced opportunities for employment, fewer than 12% of Jordanian women participate in the economic sector.
Not all of Aqaba benefits from the prosperous tourism trade. The nearby community of Shalala is made up of Palestinian refugees who do not have Jordanian citizenship and are unable to access social services such as health care and free education. An estimated 16,500 registered refugees and about 7,000 unregistered live in Aqaba, many of them children.
Refugee children are particularly vulnerable, having been removed from their homes and familiar environments and having witnessed distressing violence and traumatic events.
SOS Children helps the vulnerable in Aqaba
Cultural activities to promote well-rounded development
In 1991, SOS Children’s Villages opened its village in Aqaba in response to the influx of Palestinian refugees to the city. The Aqaba SOS Social Centre hosts a variety of educational, cultural, music and fine arts activities with the aim of promoting well-rounded development of the community’s vulnerable children.
The social centre serves residents of the Children’s Village along with local Aqaba residents, helping to strengthen links between the two communities. The centre also offers an open library, computer and internet facilities, a drawing studio and a music club. These amenities are used by SOS mothers and children as well as women and children from the neighbourhood.
Loving family homes
Several SOS homes provide a loving family environment for local children who are no longer able to live with their parents. An affectionate SOS Mother is the head of each family and children grow up alongside their SOS brothers and sisters.
The SOS Nursery in Aqaba is attended by more than 200 children from SOS families and the surrounding neighbourhood and is a secure and happy place for the children to learn, play and make early connections with others from the local community. Day care is particularly valuable to parents who need a safe place to leave their children as they go out to work or search for employment.
When our SOS children reach young adulthood, they are able to move into supervised girls’ and boys’ houses as they continue their education or vocational training. The young people are supported by the SOS Youth Programme and guided by a qualified counsellor as they make the transition to adulthood.
With help from SOS Children, many young lives are being transformed in Aqaba. You can help these children to flourish by sponsoring a child today.