By Nudge Sustainability Reporter Mostafa Shahat
Rabee Zureikat a Jordanian social entrepreneur who studied advertising & marketing at the Notre Dame University in Lebanon between 1999 – 2004.
After his graduation, Rabee became active in volunteering in community service projects. He was volunteer at the Islamic Charity Center Society (ICCS) where he visited and supported underprivileged families who have been living in rural areas outside of Amman, Jordan with money, food and clothes.
Rabee has lived all his life in Amman. He has not moved much outside of the urban and capital city Amman where there are all the opportunities and resources.
There has been always discrimination between urban and rural communities. One of the causes for the discrimination problem is the centralization problem. Big urban cities have the facilities and public services, like universities, schools, companies, health centers etc., and at the same time the rural communities are feeling marginalized and as victims because of the limited opportunities and resources.
The discrimination problem has been existing for years. The stereotype is that urban communities are more open-minded, educated and wealthy, while the rural communities are suffering from poverty, unemployment and lack of education resources and facilities. However, not many people have seen the bright side of the rural communities.
Rabee initiated a sustainable model for a programme called (Exchange Tourism). It’s a one day experience with the rural community to learn about their wise utilization of resources and how they use them sustainably. Participants come from different backgrounds, in different age groups. The trip costs $35, and all the money goes to the local people who support Rabee to organize the trip to their homes and lands.
The model succeeded and the feedback was outstanding. Groups that have joined the trips to the rural communities felt very connected to their community and culture. They have learned many new skills. Rabee and four of his friends converted the model of the initiative to a well established organisation called Zikra Initiative. Zikra means 'Memory'.
Rabee: “We called the foundation Zikra because the initiative initially was built upon the concept of passing on beautiful memories between communities."
Since 2011; Rabee and his team have supported 8000 Jordanian citizens who are living in the urban communities to visit different rural communities, more than 15 rural families benefited directly from the exchange internal tourism. Rabee wanted to add more projects parallel to the main project “exchange tourism” that is run by Zikra Initiative, so he built a sustainable model for a project called University Scholarship Fund, where the students who are living in rural communities can get scholarships to study in their desire fields, and in return they have to do 40 hours a month volunteering work in their local communities, the project supported 30 students to join different public universities in Jordan, 9 of these students have already graduated and they are working in public education sector in their villages , and most of the beneficiaries are women.
Rabee believed in the skills that the people who are living in the rural communities can teach to others who are living in urban communities. That’s why he developed another project that is run by Zikra foundation called Development through Arts and Culture (DAC).
One of the initiatives under the DAC is “Wire Cars Art”, which is having kids from the rural community who are teaching kids from the urban community how to produce their toys. 100 kids from the urban community have joined these workshops.
Another great initiative under the Zikra Initiative, in partnership with Amman Filmmakers Cooperative. A feature film was produced starring young men and kids from the village that talk about the story of the village. Also, 10 men and women participated in filmmaking workshops and produced short films. In addition to that, Zikra partnered up with many entities to conduct workshops in theatre, storytelling, Ta3leeleh (An open space for people to express themselves in front of an audience) and much more.
Rabee: “The rural communities now feel pride in their culture and local knowledge”.
Rabee has been awarded with many international awards for his excellent leadership and the creative sustainable project models that he implemented under the Zikra Initiative. The most remarkable recognized award that Rabee won was the Ashoka fellowship, The King Abdullah II Award for Youth Innovation and the Achievement Award (KAAYIA) in 2009.