Alumni Profile: Meg and Dan Price talk about IAS and their current work with Syrian refugees in Jordan
Dan and Meg Price, alumni of the 2012 Intensive Arabic Semester, are an outstanding and inspirational example of the amazing ways in which students leave IAS prepared to work in the Arab world.
The American couple currently spends most of their time living and working in Madaba, Jordan, using Arabic in their everyday life working with Syrian refugees. Their work, which occurs in conjunction with 2 local churches and U.S. donations, centers on helping refugees—who often arrive in Jordan with just the clothes on their backs—with their most basic needs, like food and medicine. This work is extremely needed, especially in light of recent announcements that the United Nations will be cutting its aid to Syrian refugees after promised member state funding has failed to materialize. The direness of the situation is felt even in Jordan, where cities like Madaba now have populations which are 20% refugees.
Furthermore, because of bureaucratic complications in refugee status, Meg and Dan’s work offers help to those without other avenues. The couple explains, for example, that refugees who are born in Syria, but who perhaps come from Palestinian or Jordanian backgrounds (but have long been residents and citizens of Syria and are often married to Syrians) are not eligible for United Nations or Jordanian NGO aid, thus making the church aid even more crucial.
It was in preparation for this ministry work that the couple came to IAS, knowing that speaking the language would be an essential part of doing their work well. After looking at 2 other programs in Amman, they settled on IAS because it “offered beginning Arabic and a good place to start. IAS had a well-rounded way of teaching Arabic, and we wanted a whole experience. And in the end we appreciated the holistic approach to language. It wasn’t just language, we were involved in the community.”
The effect of their time in Baqa is certainly clear when Dan and Meg speak about their daily work. The couple spends much of their day making house calls—checking in and doing evaluations to determine how they can help particular families. Their food deliveries always include coffee or tea, which allows for traditional Arab hosting, where drinks are always served to visitors. A comfortable visit is another essential factor, as, in addition to their evaluations, the couple explains that much of their work is about listening, “The value of being a listening, sympathetic ear is enormous. It helps them; we’re not trained counselors or psychiatrists, but it lightens their load in someway, just by allowing them to talk.” This, they explain, makes their language skills that much more important, “What we do would be impossible without Arabic. You make connections with people by speaking the language. You can have translators but that doesn’t enable us to make connections directly with the people.”
Ultimately, Dan and Meg really credit IAS with providing their first foray into the Arab world, “[Our] time spent in Baqa was very valuable for teaching us the mindset of Arabs. [There is even] a big difference when you leave the Jewish part of Israel and go into an Arab part, and the program gets you into the Arab culture. It helps you understand the culture. Everything together provided a wonderfully-rounded program, which gave us a lot of insight (including from the Israeli standpoint) into the greater Middle East. IAS is the only program that provides language and geopolitical and cultural instruction. You’re involved in a conflict where you’re learning both sides, which is beneficial. In the West, everyone thinks there’s only one kind of Arab, and that’s a terrorist. But of course people in the Arab world are just like everyone else; they just want their kids to have a better life than they have.”