“Our Community Story”: Groups of young Jordanians seek positive change in their governorates through short films on social media

Within few hours, a short film broadcast by the “Our Community Story” group in Tafila Governorate received hundreds of thousands of views and caused a great stir. Donors rushed to face the problem of the lack of clean water, which the film referred to, so they donated healthy water tanks to the Barbita village, and the Ministries of Health and Education set up a temporary health clinic in the school to treat diseases caused by the problem of contaminated water in the village well.

The youth, who were selected by the Politics and Society Institute to train and launch this project (which is being conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Embassy in Amman), did not expect this resounding impact to happen within a few hours of their story, but it is clear that this reflects, according to Hussein Al-Sarayreh; project coordinator and program director at PSI, the magnitude of the transformation in the dynamics of change and the relationship between officials and society, as social networking have become an important tool and a strong and effective channel in communication. Highlighting the problems and looking for ways to solve them, Dora Al-Muhaisen describes the skills and knowledge they learned and gathered in the project by saying, ” One of the most important things that I benefited from the project is that I can use the simple things in my hands to present stories from my community and on the long run, I will use this idea to present the stories of my community on a greater level.”

Tafila Governorate was not the only one selected for this project, as it included Balqa, Madaba, Mafraq, Ajloun and Ma’an, and the idea of the project, according to Al-Sarayra, was to conduct intensive training for those selected to prepare short films via their mobile devices, which also required training them on knowledge of laws and legislation related to media work, needs identification skills, the lobbying process skills and other skills integrated with mobile filmmaking.

Fidaa Al-Abbadi, one of the participants in the project from Balqa Governorate, confirms that she received important training through simple tools, through which she can make a big change, which was confirmed by her companion in the project, Hadeel Al-Abdallat that the Balqa Governorate team chose the tourism file because of its importance to this city, while Roaa Al-Zoubi said that the film aimed to push towards the development of tourism-related infrastructure in Balqa Governorate, and Al-Wreikat, who also participated in the project, confirmed that the theme of the film is about tourism in Balqa is the first issue, but there will be other issues and the project participants are continuing with this work.

The Balqa Governorate team had chosen the subject of tourism and met with many officials, to discuss the importance of infrastructure development, and the team reached the recommendation of the need for an integrated strategic plan to develop tourism in the governorate.

It is known that the city of Salt was recently chosen to be on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and this choice contributes to the increasing attraction of tourism and visitors, which enhances the local economy, as the story prepared by the Balqa team focused on the importance of developing the city’s infrastructure to cope with the supposed increase in the number of visitors, in addition to developing tourism products based on the city’s identity so that merchants and residents can benefit from the heritage of the city of Salt and its historical status. This requires intensifying efforts and working on a clear and comprehensive tourism strategy that the city needs today to activate tourism, thus increasing the benefit to the local community from their city’s resources.

As for the impact of the video, Arwa Abu Rumman, a participant in the team, said that “they discovered after the training that with simple tools they can actually send moving visual messages that highlight the main problems, priorities or issues in any governorate.

After the video was prepared, the team, in coordination with PSI, invited officials in the governorate, such as the mayor, the director of tourism, other officials and a group of As Salt’s active citizens to watch the video and discuss the problem and recommendations, but the response of officials varied according to the governorate, according to Al-Sarayreh, there was the absence of the director of Balqa Tourism without excuse or justification, while in Tafila there was a great and noticeable interest in the video and an immediate response from officials to solve the problem.

Diaa Al-Din Al-Khattab shares his colleagues’ opinion on the great impact that this project had given to youth and the development of services in the governorates, and this young participant believes that he can feel his ability to work and make positive change. Ma’an Harun Naimat agrees, saying, “We now know how to prepare journalistic stories that reflect the problems we have in our governorates, in which we reflect the problem in the right way and in the best way. “Until we reach the officials, we will be able to make a societal change in our regions.”

The Ma’an team had chosen its story after a child died while going to his distant school on an international road, without a nearby ambulance service, in the Al-Mudawara village. Students there suffer from the long distance between public schools and residential areas and the lack of transportation, forcing them to walk at least eight kilometers back and forth daily. In addition to the danger of the street they take, which is an international highway linking Jordan to Saudi Arabia. In the second part of the story, the film focuses on the weakness and absence of decent health services in the village.
Sami Al-Atwi agrees with his colleagues in Ma’an Governorate that this project represents a major key to influencing and developing youth and community participation in public affairs and in solving the daily and service problems that society suffers from.

The youth of Ajloun governorate went to focus on the issue of wildfires in Ajloun, and the disasters that human activities can cause in this area. Wildfires are serious issues that affect the environment and climate change that most of the world’s population suffers from today. In Jordan, the forested area is between 0.2% and 1% of the total area of the country, Ajloun has the lion’s share of it. This figure indicates that there are significant challenges in preserving the country’s natural and environmental resources. “The training I received enabled me to develop my abilities with my colleagues in introducing societal issues and problems and providing options and alternatives to solve them,” said Hussein al-Samadi.

In Mafraq, the team built a story about public transportation between the governorate and the capital Amman, and conveyed complaints about the small number of the “small” means of transportation compared to large buses that take time to load and go, in addition to the fact that public transportation stops working after 6:00 PM, which affects the movement of citizens.

In Madaba, toilets in schools were the main issue that caught the attention of the team members, who made a film about the crisis of toilets in public schools, where every 100 students from the secondary and primary stages have only one toilet with poor quality.

The story here tried to emphasize that the provision of high-quality toilets in schools is of great importance at the health and educational levels, as this contributes to the health of students and educators. A good and clean environment reduces the spread of diseases and infections within the school and then within the community.

Studies indicate that high-quality toilets contribute to improving the learning environment within the school. Students and teachers need a comfortable and clean environment to ensure focus, comfort and health while studying, comfortable and healthy to be able to concentrate and participate actively in lessons. Therefore, good toilets may positively affect their academic performance.
Hussein Al-Sarayrah explains that “ Our community story”, which began in October 2022, targeted the training of 36 Jordanian youth out of more than 200 young people who applied to participate in the project, where participants learned how to tell their stories through digital tools to address the problems of their communities and make a positive change, as they were provided through competent and experienced trainers with effective digital narration tools, the project activities included the capacity building phase, community needs assessment by participants, and story making based on it and then displayed locally and internationally.

Al-Sarayrah stressed that the current project does not stop at the limits of the first story produced by the participants, but its idea is based on launching a page on Facebook entitled “Our community story”, in which films, stories and issues related to the governorates are presented, which enhances the role of the young generation in public work and develops their abilities to contribute to the national development in their governorates.

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