Sharjah: 7Hills for Social Development, a Jordan-based non-profit, has been awarded the Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support (SIARA) 2022. The award is organised annually by The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), a UAE-based global humanitarian organisation dedicated to helping refugees and people in need worldwide.
The sixth edition of the award, valued at Dh500,000, was given to 7Hills for Social Development in recognition of its outstanding role in launching creative empowerment programmes aimed at the integration of young refugees with the host community in Jordan. With its innovative strategy of transforming unused public spaces into safe creative places to help build positive new communities, 7 Hills is enhancing creative and recreational development and creating an integrated new future for Jordanian refugees and in hosting communities.
Boosting psychological and emotional health
Through its practises and range of activities it offers, 7Hills provides a window for young people to develop and hone their creative abilities. Such practises pave the way for self-discovery and allows the refugee youth to build on their capabilities within a supportive and inclusive community in a safe public space. In 2020-21, the number of beneficiaries totalled more than 2,000 young men and women, 45 per cent of whom are females and 60 per cent are refugees and displaced persons.
By developing a dedicated space for skateboarding, the organisation provides a creative and inspiring outlet for children and youth to learn new skills and build confidence. Combining skateboarding with creative and informal education initiatives is boosting the psychological and emotional health of refugees in these areas, and building resilience amongst all age groups of children, youth and parents.
Designing for refugee integration
7Hills was established by a group of young people led by Mohammed Zakaria, a skateboarder and a photographer, who successfully constructed the 7Hills skatepark in Amman in 2014 in collaboration with a group of local and international volunteers. The team was able to transform an abandoned area into a fully equipped 650sqm skatepark in less than three weeks.
The SIARA 2022 winner focuses on the optimal use of public creative spaces to engage young refugees in an array of social activities. The redeveloped urban space is today enabling refugees to connect to places, create positive memories, bolster communication and reinforce their integration with the host community. Young refugees are also developing leadership capabilities and using their newly acquired to train others and strengthen their physical and psychological health.
The community approach adopted by the Amman-based entity and Al Raseef 153, the social enterprise arm of 7Hills, comprises an inclusive programme that focuses on multiple pillars and encompasses youth leadership training and courses across young refugees in Jordan. Every year, more than 250 youth — of which 50 per cent are refugees — learn to build leadership and vocational skills at the creative youth hub.
Migrant and refugee communities
Under its inclusive vision that stems from a deep understanding of the needs of victims of wars and crises, 7Hills for Social Development has successfully created a diverse community of host, migrant and refugee communities including Syrian, Palestinian, Lebanese, Sudanese, Somali, Yemeni, Egyptian, Nigerian, Filipino, and Iraqi youth who have close relations with the Jordanian community.
7Hills implements leadership programmes to empower the youth in becoming active members of the community and encourages them to work with the organisation’s team and contribute to the development and management of its programmes. Furthermore, graduates from the programme are given the opportunity to manage the weekly free skateboarding classes dedicated to refugees to bolster social cohesion with host communities.
Mariam Al Hammadi, Director of TBHF, said: “Through SIARA, TBHF aims to bolster all aspects of humanitarian action. We believe that the fulfilment of emotional and psychological needs of refugees and displaced peoples are just as important as meeting their requirements in food, health, and shelter.”
Launched in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the award is held under the patronage of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and his wife, Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of TBHF and UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children.