East meets West
Naiam Al-Barari would still be
at home raising her 13 children if her husband, Shaher Al-Barari, had listened to his friends.
She has owned a mini-market in Amman, Jordan, for five years, although female business-owners are not the norm in her country. Al-Barari needed a male family member’s support to start the business, and he granted it willingly, despite criticism from his friends.
In spite of her relative independence as a store-owner, Al-Barari doesn’t enjoy complete freedom. Photographer Karin Prescott couldn’t take a picture of the businesswoman without her husband’s consent. In fact, it took a series of connections for Prescott to gain trust and arrange a meeting with Naiam Al-Barari.
Prescott hopes to help Americans identify with their counterparts in the Middle East through her work as a photojournalist. She recently travelled to Jordan with Breckenridge residents Jan and Phyllis Updike. There, Prescott focused her lens on the women of Jordan, one of the most progressive countries in the Middle East. Her aim is to highlight the broad range of roles women play in Jordanian society and how they contrast with American culture.
The collaboration with Naiam Al-Barari was one of the many relationships Prescott and the Updikes formed in their recent trip. The Updikes have travelled to such remote places as Jordan, Vietnam, Zaire and the Dominican Republic to contribute and extend their expertise in community development and health because they believe all human beings are connected.
“It’s not only unwise, it’s not possible to live an isolated life,” Phyllis Updike said. “The human-to-human connection is really the pervading reason.”
The University of Jordan’s school of nursing invited Phyllis Updike to bring American standards of patient care to hospitals in Jordan. She is a retired registered nurse, doctor of nursing science and professor emerita at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In addition to sharing new skills with her students, she introduced students to a model of compassion.
“They’re sensitive, but they need help to make the jump,” she said. “A woman was writhing from stomach pain, and she had tight shoes on. No one noticed her shoes. I asked if I could remove the shoes, and I used jin shin (an Eastern form of healing touch) to help her relax. She didn’t need to say more – her face and eyes relaxed, and she moved her hands away from her stomach.”
Jan Updike is a retired doctor who spent his six weeks working with Habitat for Humanity Jordan. He focused on developing a program for community development that addresses issues including literacy, disease prevention and health promotion.
Though the three Americans spent their days in Jordan working on separate tasks, all agree their main intention is to extend friendship and build peace.
“I’m so inspired by it because it was really mutual,” Phyllis Updike said. “I didn’t feel like I went there to save souls. At every turn, Karin, Jan and I felt acts of compassion met us.”
The first word from every Jordanian upon making eye contact was “welcome,” Jan Updike said.
“The main message was, “Please go home and tell the American people that Arabian people love them – that we have a heart. We have dignity, and we long for peace just as much as you do,'” Phyllis said.
Continuing the spirit of peace
The Updikes founded the Summit Alliance for Global Health, an organization to promote community development, health, self-reliance and overall quality of life in developing countries.
They believe agreements between governments cannot move forward without the understanding and support of their citizens. Through their travels to Jordan and other countries, they encourage friendships, building a global community one person at a time. They plan on returning to Jordan in four months to strengthen the projects they worked on in April and May.
“We hope that this is the beginning of something that will continue specifically between Colorado and Jordan,” Phyllis Updike said. “I see myself as a link and bridge but not as the central act. I want to engage people in an ongoing exchange, including children.”
Already, 17 Summit County children have become pen pals with Jordanian children, who write back saying, “What are skis?” “I like dogs, but I am afraid of them. We are not used to having dogs live with us in Jordan,” and, “Will you be my friend forever?”
For more information about Summit alliance Global Health, contact Phyllis Updike at email@example.com.
Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 245 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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