Shwei Shwei

Posted Nov 29, 2011 by 6 Comments

I hopped in the car beside Rami, Global Hope employee and Julie, the office assistant, to visit one of GHNI’s newest constituent villages. Rami explained the agenda for the afternoon: build relationships. We were heading to a village where Global Hope was in the middle of a year-long process of building trust with the people living there.

After only one hour of driving, we pulled off the road into a cluster of dilapidated buildings and tents, home to a village of Palestinian refugees. The jumbled camp sprawled before me contrasted sharply with the opulence of Amman.

The residents of the camp live in tents such as these.

“When did they move here?” I asked Rami, taking in the haphazard collection of cement, rusted metal and livestock.

“Some time close to occupation,” he answered, matter-of-factly.

: Rami visiting with the village leadership

“In the ‘40s?!” I gasped in reply. I shuddered at the thought. Here sat generations of refugees—children born into this world as displaced people—living in what was supposed to be a temporary settlement. Their refugee status prevents them from attaining Jordanian citizenship, but they can’t return to Israel either.

Just a Visit

Kids emerged from homes and tents as we pulled up and swarmed Rami. He lit up immediately and greeted them all. Next, they ran up to Julie and me, offering sweet, cautious hellos.

“Umm…ezmee Laura. Ma e…ma ezmek?” I sheepishly asked one little girl. They all cocked their heads to one side.

“Shu essmek,” whispered Julie. She then turned to the group and explained my incompetence. They nodded in acceptance and welcomed me with whatever gestures they could. We continued in this way while Rami chatted with the local chambion.

Kids playing in village.

Then we left. We didn’t leave anything in the village. We didn’t come with some solution or aid for the people. We just went for a visit and left. To an outsider, it would have looked insignificant, but our visit added another layer to a slower, grander process of bringing change to the children and adults we met.

It starts with a relationship.

The Process

Relationships rule in Jordanian culture. The initial, “Welcome! Sit here. Drink this. Visit my home,” continues to surprise me as an American who’s used to a slower warm-up, but beyond the rapid welcome comes the slow, gradual build-up of an actual relationship.

Rami with the area chambion.

The same principles transfer to all aspects of life here. An organization like Global Hope might want to answer the call of villages to start community centers or goat projects, but the villages don’t want to sign on with anyone who walks up waving a clipboard.

To partner with rural villages, Global Hope needs more than material resources. They need a good reference, time and above all, trust.

The process starts with the chambion. The chambion is a local leader who looks out for the well-being of the people of his region. Most of the chambions Global Hope partners with are Christian pastors who’ve spent many years in their area of service.

The chambion knows the situation of his area, and he suggests possible partnerships to Global Hope. With his blessings, Global Hope is able to begin visiting the leader of a local village—the man of peace (this is Biblical: check out Luke 10:1-7). From there, the partnership begins.

Slowly Slowly

Months from now, after dozens of visits and conversations, Global Hope will partner with this village as it already has with six others in Jordan. They will develop a plan with village and regional leaders to address key needs in health care, education, income generation and nutrition. They will try to help break the cycle of poverty while bringing back dignity to people made in the image of God.

Global Hope is working for a better future for kids like these guys from the village.

The process takes time. It defies the logic I’m accustomed to—my culture says if I work faster or take less time to rest, things will get done. But that’s not the case here. There are no shortcuts in building relationships.

Things must move shwei shwei—slowly slowly—allowing time for connection. In the meantime, Global Hope can learn more about what the people of the village have, what they want and how to move forward as partners.

And shwei shwei, they will walk together.

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About the Author: Laura is a journalism fellow with World Next Door. She graduated from the University of Arizona, Tucson with a degree in Animal Sciences and a minor in Spanish. She is constantly learning, making friends, dancing, and trying to understand her role in alleviating the suffering of others. Laura also attracts a lot of awkward situations.

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  1. Jessi said... 


    November 29th, 2011 at 1:28 pm  

    Laura, I love this article and I can picture Rami with those kids. God has planned the perfect people in GHNI-Jordan for this outreach.

    • Laura Stump said... 


      December 12th, 2011 at 7:42 am  

      I agree, Jessi! It was great to see the relationship taking root between Rami and the GHNI constituents.

  2. Marla said... 


    November 29th, 2011 at 9:25 pm  

    So encouraging! Thanks for sharing this with us. :)

    • Laura Stump said... 


      December 12th, 2011 at 7:43 am  

      No problem :) Thanks for reading!

  3. Patti said... 


    December 14th, 2011 at 11:05 am  

    This is great! I just did some research on the importance of relationship building and not just relief in peace and conflict resolution organizations – it’s so interesting to read that Global Hope actually does this!

    Great post :)

    • Laura Stump said... 


      December 14th, 2011 at 5:09 pm  

      I’m glad to hear this, Patti! It was really interesting to see the specific “tools” for relationship building in this specific context of each village–who to talk to, whose home to visit, who to drink tea with…it seems funny, but it’s been really instrumental to the GHNI work.

      It’s good to hear that academia and the field are matching up. Your grad school is apparently worth every penny :)

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