By STEPHANIE BUNKER
Moapa Valley Progress
Christopher Udall is just an ordinary guy. He grew up in Mesa Arizona and until 6 months ago he was farming peas in Montana.Then he had an incredible idea that would change many lives.
While on a fundraising tour last week, Udall met with a group of small people in Moapa Valley and related his amazing recent experiences in the middle-eastern country of Jordan.
He said that his experience began when he started a multinational nonprofit organization called ReBuild for Peace. With an incredible background, a peace building degree and certificates, this hired hand in Montana decided to put his ideas into action. He recruited Alison Dixon who has a similar background as Vice President and the two immediately started making a difference in the young lives of Jordanians.
Jordan is a small country that attracts refugees from Iraq, Palestine, Syria and Afghanistan. According to Udall 70% of the country is made up of refugees. About half of those are ages 30 and under, which is a significant population of youth in one country. Unfortunately 30% of these young people are unemployed making this a place perfect for ISIS to recruit lost and helpless youth, Udall said.
Udall’s idea fits perfectly in a country like Jordan. “The answer to the world’s problems is held directly at the people facing the problems by empowering them to solve their own problems” Udall said.
He added that no one knows the problems like those that are living them every day. So when he went to Jordan he asked the government there, “What do the people need?” He was told that people needed to learn to become self sufficient. They need jobs so to meet their own needs.
Thus, ReBuild for Peace came into being as Udall began teaching the refugee’s vocational skills. He set up an American based school in Jordan where classes such as welding, cosmetology, fashion and clothing repair, photography and videography, copper work, and anti conflict classes were taught.
Udall said that the refugee’s are encouraged to start using each skill they learn, even before completing the course, in the work place and begin earning money with it. “That way they really see the profit that comes from learning the skills and they want to continue on,” Udall said.
At the end of the course the student refugees are to complete a Community Development Project. This is a program Udall designed, similar to an Eagle Scout project here in the US. Udall explained that this project helps the refugees become more community-minded and benefits the rebuilding of the community.
Students are also encouraged to donate to a Perpetual Education fund when they can make money and support themselves. This way they can give back the support that they have received and continue education for other refugees.
At the end of the vocational training the student refugees came up with their own Community Development Project, to rebuild the Karak castle. This was an ancient building which ISIS members, and a young group of their peers, had attacked in December of 2016 killing 10 people and injuring 34. Udall recalled that it took 2 ½ months to plan the rebuild.
“All of a sudden we began studying how to restore ancient structures,” he said.
The project took 12 hours to complete and it turned into something the community took pride in. The participants repaired bullet holes, repainted and repaired the castle bridge, picked up trash and provided new trash cans, built a peace garden, displayed a forum on counter extremism, and worked on art projects.
To do all of this, they received donations from local businesses. The community celebrated the completion of the rebuild by sending balloons into the sky that evening. The group even hung a banner on the castle that played along with the ISIS slogan of “Our Islamic State Remains Strong.” On the Karak Castle banner it is now displayed, “Our Castle Remains Strong.”
ReBuild for Peace has been able to open opportunities for women in Jordan by once again using an underneath approach, asking what is needed.
Udall told the story of a woman who went to Jordan to teach the women there pluralistic thinking. In response, the woman was kidnapped and held prisoner. Three months later Udall and Dixon were teaching those same principals to women but did it in a way that was the Jordanians idea. The people in Jordan said their women needed something to do in their homes to keep them busy and contribute to their family. ReBuild for Peace began teaching women how to sew head dresses and sell them in a tourist town at a decent price. Udall commented that the women are making good money from making and selling the head dresses.
Because Jordan is an extremely poor country, and is funded by outside countries, the government doesn’t award money to humanitarian organizations very often. But ReBuild for Peace became an exception.
Udall tells the story of a day he was terribly sick with a high fever. But he still had to attend an important meeting with Jordanian diplomats about a grant. He explained that, 15 minutes before his meeting, another international humanitarian organization had met with the diplomats and the diplomats agreed to give this other organization half a million dollars. It was time for Udall to meet the diplomats and he said he doesn’t remember much about the meeting. He let his advisor do the talking and at the end of the meeting his advisor nudged Udall who had fallen asleep stricken with fever, to sign a contract giving the $500,000 to ReBuild for Peace instead of the previous humanitarian organization.
“I’m still not sure why they decided to give the money to us instead,” Udall said. “But we do an underneath approach, and they said it felt like a better decision.”
The money they received from the grant will be used to pay for rent of the buildings, buy food, transportation and insurance for the youth.”
Udall explained that he uses his own money to pay the salary of teachers which is why he is on this fundraising tour right now. For more information or to donate to ReBuild for Peace, visit www.rebuildforpeace.org.