Jordan’s hope is Jordanians abroad

Amman (MRKailani)
Al-Dakhliyeh in Amman, Jordan. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
With every passing crisis and intense turn of events, it becomes clearer and clearer that Jordan is going through an important turning point in its history; a storm that the nation must weather. While the Jordanian people have the strength to do so, the circumstances make it difficult for them. As the economy becomes harder to run, opportunities become harder to find.اضافة اعلان

Unemployment in Jordan is approaching 20 percent for the general population and stands at around a tremendous 37 percent among youth, according to recent statistics from the World Bank. The statistics were recorded months before the COVID-19 pandemic — a cruelly unique event that paralyzed the entire world.

Jordan, economically fragile as it is, is close to crippled. As a result, young, qualified, and hardworking Jordanians head abroad in droves, hoping to find a place where they can truly display their skills and secure a comfortable living, a state considered luxurious by many Jordanians. Those who follow Jordan’s affairs closely look on with concern, as they fear that the brain drain that has stunted the development of Eastern Europe and Africa is beginning to make its way to our country.

After all, large diasporas are associated with instability in the old country, and over 10 percent of Jordanians are living outside of the homeland.

Before pessimism overwhelms the concerned politician or layman, departing one’s home is a physical event, but not necessarily a mental one. Indeed, many large diaspora communities around the globe actively aid in the development of their home countries and the fulfillment of national aspirations.

In the case of Ireland, many of the nationalist leaders and organizations that helped free it from the yoke of British rule were based in the US, Canada, Australia, and often, in the UK itself. Zionism, although severely at odds with morality and incompatible with logical thinking, was a successful movement wherein a diaspora community completed a “grand project” for the benefit of their people. Although worth emphasizing this was done through colonialism and genocide, it nonetheless proves that a diaspora can still hold allegiance to a patriotic cause.

Economically speaking, remittances provided by diaspora can be a significant boost to a country’s finances. India’s diaspora of 32 million people sent $80 billion back home in 2018, forming around 3 percent of India’s massive GDP. Likewise, Egypt, one of our brotherly nations, received $26 billion in remittances last year.

In summary, the intellectual capacity of an educated diaspora can do more than just bring increased wealth to the “old country”. It can also provide the passionate rigor to bring prosperity back home and translate into coherent solutions to the homeland’s problems via the advanced education of the developed countries in which the diaspora resides.

In Jordan’s case, one of the finest and most spectacular examples of our brethren abroad helping our brethren at home is that of the Jordanian American Physicians Association, who worked to give lectures and send oxygen devices home in order to help the Kingdom’s healthcare sector deal with the wave of COVID-19 patients that filled the country’s hospitals.

This included Jordanian-American physicians from various fields giving weekly online lectures in order to help physicians in Jordan deal with the crisis, as well as the delivery of high-flow therapy machines — equipment Jordanian hospitals lacked. The committed team helped in hospitals in Amman, the south of Jordan, and in Irbid Governorate.

To learn more about this honorable effort, I spoke to Dr Omar Al-Durra. Born in Los Angeles to parents who were graduate students at the University of Southern California, Durra moved back to Amman as a child, where he graduated from the Bishop’s School. After completing Medical School at the University of Jordan, he underwent his residency in Chicago. Since 2002, he has been working at the anesthesiology department of the Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he currently resides. There, he is also codirector of the neurospine team and takes care of patients undergoing open-heart and brain surgery.

In regards to his specific role in this endeavor, Durra gave online lectures and live consultation as part of the airway team, known as telemedicine. “One of the few positives of the pandemic amongst many negatives was the advancement of virtual education — the lectures were given across miles, they could be given anytime, anywhere,” he explained.

“It was a team effort,” Durra stressed, “there are a lot of qualified Jordanian physicians who were blessed to work in very prestigious universities and hospitals in the US, which is a huge thing.”

In keeping with the theme of exporting lessons from the US to Jordan, he added that the pandemic exposed Jordan in certain areas. “Despite all the development in medicine, there is a deficiency in certain fields,” he said.
He emphasized the importance of gaining and then applying experience. “We learned from the experience in Wuhan and in Italy. ... No one teaches you how to handle a pandemic, so we shared some information with our colleagues in Jordan.”

In answering my final prompt, Dr Durra advised diaspora Jordanians to “be nice, share the knowledge, and always remember your humble beginnings. Remember, you did not start where you are, it took time, it was a process, so make sure to help someone and pay it forward, especially if they are in the same specialty.”

Hundreds of thousands of Jordanians live, work, and study in far off lands. While the motivation to go abroad is typically something immediate, such as supporting the family or seeking a prestigious degree, we must keep the welfare of our homeland in mind when we gain this expertise. Simply put, we cannot hoard the wealth of knowledge we may gain when we voyage beyond the frontier.

Jordan is holding onto security and stability, yet we are a people that aims for excellence, and to truly prosper, the valuable experiences one gains when one travels the world must arrive in the warm lap of the homeland, as repayment to the country that has raised us and brought us up to be intelligent, industrious and honorable individuals.

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