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 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 enjoys a stable economy and is undergoing rapid development. Despite this, joblessness is high, especially among the young. Cultural demands mean that it is sometimes difficult for women to find work. Western hotels, for example, often choose not to employ veiled women for roles for which guest interaction is a requirement. Consequently, only 12% of women are in work throughout the country.
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. Since the civil war in Syria erupted, thousands of Syrian refugees have also flooded into the area. As refugees, they find it hard to find work and many of them live in temporary shelters with little food. Many families are forced to beg to survive.
Child refugees are at particular risk – many of them end up trying to help bring in money for their families by begging or selling things on the street. All have been forced to leave the familiarity of their homes, and many suffer from trauma as a result of having witnessed brutality or violence.
What we do in Aqaba
Supporting vulnerable communities
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
Children who cannot grow up with their parents or extended family can find a loving home with an SOS family. Cared for by an SOS mother, each child benefits from a lively upbringing as they grow up with their new SOS brothers and sisters.
The SOS nursery in Aqaba is open to 200 children, both from SOS families and from the surrounding community. Not only does it provide a secure, happy environment where children can play and begin to form relationships, it offers valuable daycare to parents who need the time to go out and earn an income.
Support for young adults
On reaching late adolesence, youngsters benefit from the opportunity to join our SOS youth programme, where we provide supervised, semi-independent accommodation so that they can get used to looking after themselves – with the support of a guiding hand. The youngsters continue vocational training or education as they work with a counsellor to help them gain the skills they need to live independently.
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.