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Journey to Jordan: Princeton couple to work with nonprofit to help refugees

Posted September 18, 2016

Ned and Marian Walsh

— The photo made headlines around the world.

A 3-year-old boy, lifeless, being carried off a Turkish beach by a rescuer who arrived too late.

The story of Aylan Kurdi highlighted the plight of Syrian refugees and the burgeoning migrant crisis in Europe last year, and it also served as a call to action for Princeton residents Ned and Marian Walsh.

A year after the photo made the world look on in "horror," as Ned Walsh puts it, he and his wife have traveled to Amman, Jordan, where they will spend the next two weeks trying to help refugees who have fled both Iraq and Syria.

"It struck a chord with the world, us included, and you automatically think about the horror of this situation," Ned Walsh said. "You let it sit, because it seems so far away and such a huge issue. Where do you start? What do you do?"

After meeting a student from Jordan in Cuba, of all places, Ned Walsh said he began to think more last fall about what he could do to help refugees in the Middle East. He started researching organizations that provide aid, places that may need volunteers.

He found the Collateral Repair Project, a nonprofit formed in 2006 as a way to help refugees of the war in Iraq.

Since its formation, the organization has expanded to help refugees from several countries in the region. CRP provides food and housing vouchers to those in need, and a center in an older part of Amman, Jordan's capital, helps rebuild the hearts and minds of those affected by conflict.

"CRP was formed to design a holistic approach to help refugee families. It wasn't just physical provisions, but mental as well," Ned Walsh said. "They have yoga classes, activities for adults and children, psychological counseling and more. It's not just food."

The Walshes were vetted by the group months ago, and through the winter, spring and summer they worked through the logistics of their trip – where they'd stay, what they'd do and what they hoped to bring back home.

For Ned Walsh, the trip will also be a bit of a journey back in time. In 1962, as a college student, he traveled to Jordan to volunteer in a missionary hospital in Ajloun, a northern city near Jordan's border with Syria.

"It may be a drop in the ocean, but you do it in the hopes that somehow the stories you help tell will penetrate minds and hearts and make a difference," Ned Walsh said. "When we come back, we hope we can enlarge the number of contributors to these nonprofits so they can reach more children and families."

On this trip, the Walshes will provide support for CRP as it works to broaden its base.

Marian Walsh, a retired teacher, will also work with CRP's after-school program for refugee children and its women's programs.

"Having been a teacher for 31 years, I thought one way I could contribute would be helping children – to help kids who have experienced so much loss," Marian Walsh said. "They have after-school programs and mentoring, and full-time people helping with that effort, but they can always use help."

Ned Walsh will work with CRP's staff on developing strategies to raise funds when the couple returns to the U.S. He hopes that he can bring back personal stories that will connect with people in the Triangle.

"Maybe we can plan events here to raise money – a series of concerts or something. And we can actually give details about what money can do. How $50 might feed a family of four for a week, or that $30 can provide school supplies for a child for a year," Ned Walsh said. "That way people can see what their money will do. It's a human connection. CRP hasn't been able to transmit their message and goals in the states."

The Walshes also hope their personal stories can help fight against Islamophobia.

"We are all immigrants. That has been the genesis of our nation," Ned Walsh said. "We hope to address the issue of Islamophobia, and how it's being fanned by politicians, and the wrongness of that. You can positively discuss the human issue and how we're all brothers and sisters of the human race. By going, our message will have more validity. It's not about us, we're vessels for the message."

More about Collateral Repair Project

CRP was founded in 2006 by two American women who wanted to establish an organization that allowed for a "direct connection between citizens of coalition countries and innocent Iraqis who suffered from the consequences of war."

CRP now serves Jordanians, Iraqis, Syrians and others fleeing violence in their home countries.

CRP is located in Hashemi Shamali in east Amman.

More about Amman, Jordan

Amman is Jordan's capital city and the country's economic, political and cultural center. It's found in the north-central section of Jordan, and it's population is just over 4 million people. It's considered to be among the most liberal and westernized Arab cities.

It is a major tourist destination in the region.


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