Natalia spent her entire student career at ACS Amman. Throughout her time on campus Natalia decorated herself with many accolades for her strict adherence to ACS’s student profile, involvement in student government and her passion for community service. On top of all of this she was able to focus on her academics enough to be awarded valedictorian at the conclusion of her senior year.
When Natalia decided to embark on the project tied to her AP research project she went with something close to her heart. Natalia had been volunteering at the Gaza Refugee Camp in Jerash, Jordan camp. Since entering high school she involved herself in food and clothes drives and often went to centers to personally the deliver goods. On her visits she would always take extra time to sit with people, young and old, and listen to their stories. Through this she developed a tremendous amount of empathy for this community that had become largely forgotten and disenfranchised.
The camp in Gaza, hosts around 20,000 refugees inhabit the 750-square-metre camp; the majority of these refugees were forced to leave Palestine in 1948 and lived in the Gaza Strip until the 1967 War, when they fled to Jordan.
While most Palestine refugees have been granted Jordanian citizenship, ex-Gaza refugees do not have the same rights. Refugees in the Gaza camp are restricted in job opportunities in the government sector, co-op associations and are not allowed to set up private businesses. They are only allowed a temporary passport for two years, after which, travel becomes incredibly difficult. These restrictions, necessary according to Jordanian security officials, leave many of these refugees without a country or opportunities for employment.
Natalia saw an opportunity to make a change in the camp. Natalia knew, through her empathy and experience, that the refugees would benefit with an up to date computer lab. So she went full steam ahead and built one. She received a donation from Orange Telecommunications for free internet for two years, she acquired ten new computers donated from a local organization Wings of Hope, and received a grant from the Canadian Embassy to pay for a trained computer teacher. Natalia wrote the proposals, went to the meetings, conducted the interviews and eventually, with an introduction from the Canadian Ambassador himself, opened the We:Tech lab in Jerash. The lab has been an enormous success teaching English, coding and software skills to mainly young refugee girls but others from the community are welcome as well.
In the end, this project taught Natalia skills to prepare her for the future job market. She can stand face to face with NGO’s, diplomats and educators and speak about her passions. She can write proposals, talk about up-to date best practices in EdTech, ask for money and hire people. However, when you ask Natalia about her learning she always says these skills are secondary to the opportunity she had to help people. She speaks about learning by doing, learning by following your passion and has encouraged her peers and teachers alike to follow their passions to make a mark on this world.