Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year / New Resolutions

One important skill for organizations and individual alike is getting in the habit of setting goals -- and following through in achieving them. Toward this end, Jumpstart’s vocational toy project has been setting ambitious objectives for 2009 and encouraging all participants to do the same. The odds that the project and all of its members will follow-through on each and every thing listed are remote. Yet hopefully the combination of dreaming up different aspirations, along with drafting out detailed plans to pursue them, will prove a useful habit that will leave us all farther along, both during and after the project. A Happy New Year from all in Amman!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Investing Beyond Next Week

JumpStart International’s recycling partners in Jordan have been doing a commendable job developing supply networks to provide our vocational recycling business with a necessary base of raw materials to ensure our upcoming training and manufacturing efforts are as seamless as possible. Yet to ensure that our project achieves a critical mass in the short-term, JumpStart has collaborated with its partners to invest in a collection truck to help support reliable, effective collection of recyclables at several of our cornerstone garbage suppliers in Amman. With this foothold, the project now looks forward to scaling-up its collection efforts in the short-term, and focusing increasingly on the vocational training of 40 participants. With a core group of participants as well as informally partnering with countless Iraqis working to recycle trash, the project will provide premium access to fair market prices for all scavenged commodities. JumpStart is eager to push forward in this under-developed industry and achieve outsized results together with those who are so often neglected any such opportunities.

The new truck

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Importance of Outreach

The goals of JumpStart’s Vocational Skills Training Fellowship involve more than just improving participants’ working skills – there is also an emphasis on the importance of civic responsibility. Toward this end, the project has begun an outreach component where participants begin to share both what they’re learning in the program, as well as a bit of themselves, with some of the region’s youngest victims. Current efforts are still small, yet the project looks forward to increasing such work aggressively as the project matures in the months ahead.

Community Outreach

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Field Testing

One important tool of the vocational toy enterprise is testing out what really works and doesn’t. Such a deceptively simple approach is equally useful for making a kite as well as testing out a business model – the first try seldom is perfect, and in turn powerful critical thinking is usually necessary to evolve beyond the initial hurdles. It is with this mindset that the toy project recently field-tested one of its first batches of sample kites. While not the most challenging work we’ll face, it was satisfying to see everything go smoothly and provide the participants with both the momentum to move into more challenging upcoming assignments, as well as a powerful tool in critical thinking to help participants overcome the future hiccups as well.

Noor, a junior staff member, flies a kite

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Healthy Balance

Participants coming together

While the vocational toy project is charged with imparting business skills and civic values into all of its participants, it is no secret that refugees from Iraq and impoverished adolescents from Jordan often face more than their fair share of hardship. In turn, the project is happy to share that we’re pursuing a “healthy balance” of constructive work and therapeutic fun – all in the name of sustainability. By keeping participants relaxed and energized, the thinking is that even though instructional time may be lost now and then, overall interest and longevity will increase – ultimately resulting in a better training experience for all involved.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Moving Forward

JumpStart International’s vocational toy enterprise training is beginning to make headway beyond its initial simplicity and moving toward introducing more challenging material involving both manufacturing and general business management. To date, all participants and staff have been extremely supportive as the project increasingly embraces more challenging assignments. Many of the skills may be new and certainly not everything is easy, yet there is a sincere desire to learn, and JumpStart looks forward to meeting the growing interest of participants and Iraqi staff alike.

Getting down to business

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Training Commenced

Two participants in the program

JumpStart International is pleased to share that it has begun vocational training of displaced Iraqi and marginalized Jordanian youth in Amman with its pioneering toy enterprise. For the initial six-month phase, the project will be housed in an independent building in Amman under the jurisdiction of the Jordan Red Crescent Society (JRC). The program is focused on the vocational training of 20 participants, staffed by two Iraqi trainers and two Jordanian mentors who guide the participants in day-to-day activities, while JRC, JumpStart, and Kitegang staff provide guidance and operational support as needed. If the ongoing viability of a toy-making business seems plausible, the program will increasingly focus training towards the self-sufficiency of the enterprise (as well as smaller participant spin-offs). For now, we are simply pleased to be up and running in Amman and working with so many wonderful participants.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Toy Project Overview

JumpStart International is currently leading an initiative to create a pioneering Middle Eastern toy enterprise project that will serve as a vocational training vehicle for displaced Iraqi and marginalized Jordanian youth who have fallen outside of traditional support efforts. Working with the Jordan Red Crescent Society (JRC) and Kitegang, the world's first non-profit toy company, the project initiates an experimental toy-making business for young adults from Iraq and Jordan that, while impoverished, share a motivation to create something better for themselves and their communities.

Toy Project staff and participants, with members of Jordan Red Crescent Society, Kitegang, and JumpStart International

The Toy Project's initial goal is to address the psychosocial and financial needs of participants through the creation of a vocational training enterprise that provides structure and living stipends. Beyond the emotional and financial supports, the project will also emphasize civic and vocational lessons to empower participants to pursue productive livelihoods well beyond the life of the program. As a result, the expected achievements of this project include
  • mitigating the effects of violence and regional instability on the participants by creating greater hope and opportunity through structured, yet upbeat, vocational training
  • meeting the immediate financial needs of 20 participants by also providing living stipends
  • increasing business and life skills of young adults residing in Jordan through progressive and individually tailored business training
  • engaging young people as civic-minded, productive members of society
In combination, the project essentially aspires to address some of the most pressing regional needs with some of the simplest tools – in this case all centered around the business of making toys. While the number of people involved is limited to start, the quality of training and support that goes into each participant is sizeable – in line with the project’s goals of making a meaningful difference in the long-term development of each participant.