Anne Strapatsas and Ardiana Wagner, founders of Al Salam, tell us about their commitment to refugees in Jordan and explain why it is important to them to actively stand up for peace.

Long-lasting impressions

I am sitting in a tent in the "Al Zataari Camp", the largest UNHCR refugee camp in Jordan. Outside it is muddy and dirty, and the people have nothing to eat. Nevertheless, the children tell me about their dreams: They want to become doctors, like almost all children of their age here.

Such a wish expressed by a child is difficult to bear in this hopeless environment. On the other hand, it also motivates me for these children have an aim and they want to achieve something in their lives. It is a moving and incredibly precious thought.

From idea to initiative

Already before I started my studies I joined several relief organizations and flew repeatedly to Jordan to help refugees on site. As a nurse, I was able to provide a lot of medical assistance but also had the feeling that I could achieve more.

It had always been my plan to study medicine. During my nursing education at a teaching hospital of Witten/Herdecke University I often met students from Witten telling me that the education is highly relevant to practice and that they use real cases to impart knowledge there. I appreciated that very much and therefore applied at Witten/Herdecke University.

When I started my studies I met Ardiana who was enthusiastic about the fact that applicants are not only evaluated based on their average grades but that the university tries to get to know the individual and his or her potential. She was also excited about the idea of actively helping on site when I told her about my flights to Jordan. We soon agreed that we wanted to achieve something together – and were sure that we would not be left alone with our idea at the university. This is why we founded the “Al Salam” (Arabic word for “peace”) initiative. We would like to create conditions in which the children’s dreams may have a chance to come true.

In good company

Student initiatives have a long tradition at Witten/Herdecke University and are strongly supported by the university. We, too, benefit from this support which enables us to always find new sponsors. As it was possible to integrate Al Salam into the curriculum of the Studium fundamentale, we are now even in the position to reward some of our activities with a course certificate.  

We also obtain valuable information from other student initiatives of the university. In particular the members of L’appel Deutschland e.V. gave us a hand during the establishment of our initiative and shared their experience with us. Team spirit and co-operation are extremely strong among students in Witten. This is one of the reasons why the number of active members has increased to 18 within a year.

Helping locally

Our work in Germany mainly consists of fund raising. In the long run, we hope that the whole team will be able to fly to Jordan and not only me. We are convinced that verbal declarations against any form of war are not enough, and we want to support peace in proactive ways.

In Jordan we work together with various relief organizations such as the “Flying Doctors of America”. They are in possession of the necessary approvals of the Jordanian authorities. We also collaborate with a group of Jordanian medical students, who are familiar with the local infrastructure and cultural matters and speak Arabic.

The commitment never ends

We founded Al Salam in order to grow and provide help on a long-term basis – even after having completed our studies. As doctors we may be able to provide comprehensive medical care later on. The initiative is a matter that is truly dear to our hearts. So it was a special honour for us to receive the Jörg Hogen Students Award.

It is of course our deepest wish that one day in the future relief organizations like Al Salam will no longer be necessary. Until then we will follow the path we have taken with our association.

More about the initiative