Archive for Jordan

Capstone in Jordan

The SIPA Capstone Project serves to help SIPA students utilize skills they’ve learned in the classroom to deal with real life problems. This year, SIPA partnered up with Better Work/International Finance Corporation and International Labour Organization (ILO) to assess the Better Work Jordan Workers’ Center targeted at garment workers’ in the Al-Hassan Qualified Industrial Zone (QIZ) in Jordan.  What is a QIZ you ask? It’s an enclosed area with factories surrounded by factory-owned dormitories that the migrant workers’ use during their stay in Jordan. Most of the workers never travel outside the QIZ – even when they are there for 3+ years.

The idea of the center came out of need for migrant workers’ to have a stronger sense of community outside their daily life. The center provides recreational activities along with training programs (English and Computer skills).

Our team will be working on collecting data to create a baseline and sustainability study based on its first month since opening.

Day 1/2: Travel

The first two days were brutal. Flying into Jordan takes approximately 15 hours – 12 on the plane and roughly 3 hours layover. We missed our connecting flight from London (Heathrow) to Amman, Jordan. Luckily, we were able to catch the next flight a couple of hours later. After 24 hours on the road, we finally made it to our hotel. Tough day – but well worth the time and effort.

There’s also a six hour difference, you can only begin to imagine the jetlag…


 Day 3: Workers’ Center

After many months of visualizing the center through client class and website information, we finally get to visit the Workers’ Center. The workers’ center is approximately 75mins north of Amman, Jordan. During our van ride, we find out that the workers’ center is open – we are excited to know that we will be able to conduct our first round of interviews during the first day.

We are surprised to find the workers’ center is a lot bigger than we had initially imagined. It has a computer lab with 27 Dell Laptops, a classroom for English Instruction, a kitchen and canteen and a multi-purpose room.

View of the dormitories from Workers’ Center

View of the dormitories from Workers’ Center










I sat through an English class during the day – most of the students in attendance were from Madagascar. I was impressed by the teaching methods but also by the students’ participation. They were happy to be there and even more excited to be learning a new language so foreign to them.  The students were asked to recite the alphabet, some of them even stood up and sang it! During the class, I noticed that the students were helping each other with the pronunciation of the letters – hardest letter of the alphabet to pronounce in the room “S”.

English class

English class

Day 4: Petra, Jordan

Today is our only day off during our trip. We decided to go to Petra, Jordan! Petra is about a three hour ride south from Amman.

E4 E5 E6 E7

 So many camels!

Day 4: Workers’ Center

We spent the morning in the Better Work office learning more about the programs that they offer besides the Workers’ Center. Better Work does training with factories in different QIZ’s on sexual harassment but also financial literacy training for workers.

In the afternoon, we headed off to the Al-Hassan QIZ. We collected data through our survey and conducted two focus groups with Malagasy workers. The team was able to get useful information for the workers’ center. We will use the surveys and focus group information to get create a report that will help the Workers’ Center with future activities and management.

We also set up some sport games outside the Workers’ Center – some volleyball and soccer.

A pretty good day.  It’s late – better head off to bed.  Thanks for reading.


Posted by Eder Gaona, MPA 2014 and just back from the Middle East.  A little snippet from Eder’s capstone trip.

What I Did This Summer: Entry #5

Kristoffer Tangri is a second year MIA student concentrating in International Security Policy.  I asked him to share about what he did during the summer break and he wrote the following and sent along the pictures as well.


It is 86 degrees Fahrenheit with an early morning breeze and the sun is rising over an endless sea of sand and granite rocks. Wadi Rum, a vast desert valley in southwest Jordan awakes to a magnificent spectacle of colors that already captivated T. E. Lawrence. While most SIPA students are off in search of work experience, I decided to travel the Middle East instead: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey in two months. The Middle East has always fascinated me, its rich culture and history but also its current political, economic and security situation. This blog entry is too short to share all the many impressions and observations of my trip but can give a short introduction into this unique part of the world.

My first stop of the summer was Istanbul, Turkey’s grand city at the Bosporus and former capital of the Ottoman Empire. The city lives its history and at every corner you find magnificent remainders of its Roman and Ottoman eras. The Hagia Sophia, arguably Istanbul’s most superb landmark, was build as a patriarchal basilica in the 6th century and later turned into a mosque during the Ottoman Empire. In the 1930s, it was made a public museum under the secular movement of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The Hagia Sophia now stands in Turkey’s most modern and secular city.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque also known as the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey

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My next stop was Amman, the capital of Jordan, a city that has been around for several thousand years but has only grown into a real metropolis over the last decades, partly due to the economic rise of Jordan but also due to the influx of Palestinian and Iraqi refugees. Jordan, unlike its neighbors Lebanon and Syria, has diplomatic relations with Israel and has an important partnership with the United States. You can see American made police cars everywhere and Israeli tourist frequently come to visit one of the many historical and religious sites of the nation. Petra, the lost city, is without a doubt the highlight of the country. Tucked away in a valley hidden behind great mountains, the Western world has been unaware for centuries of the two thousand year old world heritage side’s location until it was rediscovered in 1812 by the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.

Petra, a city mainly carved into stone, was once erected as the capital of the Nabataeans and is now Jordan’s most important source of tourist income. Other highlights in Jordan include a trip to the Red Sea at Aqaba, the Dead Sea, the Jordan river and of course Wadi Rum.

The ancient city of Petra, Jordan

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The ancient city of Petra, Jordan

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From Jordan I traveled onwards to Damascus, the capital of Syria. I stayed three weeks in Syria and enrolled in a summer school on Middle East politics, financed by the German and Syrian governments with German and Syrian students. Syria is a country with a highly ambivalent global reputation. Some people will think of the wonderful old town of Damascus with one of Islam’s oldest and most holy mosques, the Ummayad Mosque. They will speak of friendly people, the desert city of Palmyra, famous Crusader castles and the food in Aleppo. Other people will be reminded of George Bush’s “Axis of Evil” remarks in 2002, comment on the political system in the country and speak about Syria’s involvement in Lebanon and Iraq and the fact that Syria does not accept the existence of the state of Israel.

I travelled to Syria to learn more about both sides. I had the opportunity to meet foreign diplomats and Syrian government officials and went on several field trips, for example to a Palestinian Refugee camp or Queneitra at the Golan Heights. Sentiments against Israel and to some extend the United States are still widespread but people are fairly open minded and religious tolerance is rooted deep within the countries politics and society. Syria has mainly avoided civil unrest and religious conflicts within their own territory (with the major exception of Hama in 1982), but did get involved more heavily in their neighboring countries.

Visiting the Syrian parliament and meeting the president of the parliament with a delegation of students

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Israel-Syrian border at the Golan Heights in the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force Zone

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Lebanon was the last stop of my Middle East trip and it was somewhat different than I had expected. Syria is still a more traditional society with very affordable living costs and people rarely speak English. Lebanon and especially Beirut, on the contrary, are highly modern, people speak fluent French or English and the prices in some parts of Beirut were even higher than in New York. Lebanon seemed to me like a surreal place. Only three years ago the country has been at war with Israel and less than two decades ago the bloody civil war ended.

Yet, besides the highly sectarian political system and its history and the fact that you have to pass dozens of military checkpoints with tanks while travelling through the country, Lebanon has established itself as a safe and welcoming tourist and party location. When going out to one of the endless clubs in Beirut you get checked frequently by police and when going to Baalbek, the ancient temple ruins in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, you will find a stage for Western rock concerts next to a Hezbollah exhibition.

The Martyrs’ Statue in downtown Beirut

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Hezbollah exhibition in Baalbek

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I had a wonderful time traveling the Middle East and have learned a lot about the region’s culture, history and politics. At SIPA I am concentrating on International Security Policy and Post-Conflict Development and my travels have helped me gain a deeper understanding of the conflicts of the Middle East region. Upon returning to Columbia I will be taking a course on Middle East history and politics and do a part time internship during my fourth semester. SIPA is very flexible with your internship requirement and many students do it part-time to replace or in addition to the summer internship.

Thank you very much, Kristoffer

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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