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Local entrepreneur pays it forward

Youth at one of Ilearn’s centers can be seen in this undated photo. Saddam Sayyaleh said he co-founded Ilearn to give disadvantaged children a chances he did not have. (Photo: Handout from Ilearn)
Youth at one of Ilearn’s centers can be seen in this undated photo. Saddam Sayyaleh said he co-founded Ilearn to give disadvantaged children a chances he did not have. (Photo: Handout from Ilearn)
AMMAN — “I was a 12-year-old orphan who was forced to work. I know what it feels like to be forced into the world of child labor, but I knew that I would have to do something about it one day,” said Saddam Sayyaleh.اضافة اعلان

Sayyaleh is the co-founder of ILearn and a social entrepreneur. He also leads the Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship’s technical committee on social enterprises, which was created in response to a shortage of educational resources and learning spaces in underprivileged communities. 

Sayyaleh, who grew up in Jerash Camp and was orphaned at a young age, wants to help create a better future for the children and youth who have experienced similar circumstances to those as him. 

“The social protection system is not equipped to deal with the challenges these children go through, whether academically, financially, or socially,” he told Jordan News, “which is why I started this initiative that developed into an organization.” 

He created ILearn in 2012 as a welcoming environment for members of the community that provides healthy knowledge spaces for children and youth. The spaces provide learning and skill-building opportunities in safe spaces to inspire children, increase youth potential, and foster community involvement. 

 According to Sayyaleh, skill-building is just as important as education, especially for people who grow up in low-income areas and camps. “We need to acknowledge just because someone does not hold a degree of education, does not mean that they cannot succeed,” He said. “No one can deny the importance of academia, but admitting that skills, interest, and creativity can lead you to successful paths in life is just as important. I am a living example that skill building can grant you opportunities in life.” 

The ILearn informal teaching method seeks to improve young people’s resilience, self-learning, problem-solving abilities, critical thinking, and self-assurance. Youth volunteers (15-30 years old) also participate in a coaching program to improve their facilitation and leadership skills, as well as increase their awareness of diversity, children’s rights, and the international context for child safety. 

“When children leave our space, they need to also be supported in their community,” he said. 

Although the project started out “small, with no funds whatsoever”, it caught the eye of many volunteers with goals like mobilizing resources, finding local solutions, and implementing a program that can help refugee children.  Today, with the support of their two key partners, Social Participation and Community by Youth and Masahti Project with Drosos Foundation, ILearn.jo has reached over 10,000 children and youth, with 30 percent of them being either school dropouts or involved in child labor. 

“What we truly represent is a prevention program; meaning we work on the issue before it happens.” He said, “We can foresee that is an issue on the rise, such as the increase of child labor. It is better to support prevention programs rather than responsive programs.” 

The company is also currently in talks with UNICEF Jordan about supporting them with their incubator program and opening business incubators in Jerash and Deir Alla, in collaboration with the Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship.

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