Supporting Syrian Refugees In Jordan

Filed Under: Travel

Hello from somewhere in Jordan, (likely in the middle of the desert by the time this posts). The country is beautiful, and the people we’ve met have been so warm and welcoming – I can’t wait to share all the details of this trip with y’all.


I want to take a quick detour from miles and points though, and talk about the impact the Syrian refugee crisis is having in Jordan. I know this isn’t a typical topic for OMAAT, so I promise to keep it short, but something about seeing some of these things first-hand…

Jordan isn’t the most impoverished place I’ve traveled. Amman is a bustling and cosmopolitan city, and there’s a strong (though struggling) tourism industry. But adding almost a million refugees to your population isn’t easy.

So yes, we flew into a gorgeous airport, and many of the towns dotting the landscape are thriving.

But I can’t tell you how many clusters of ramshackle tents we’ve driven past. Not woven Bedouin tents (which we’ve seen as well), but tattered canvas with UNHCR printed on the side and barefoot children playing in the rocky dirt.

I don’t know if it’s the current geopolitical situation, or just coming off the heels of a ridiculously commercialized holiday period in the U.S., or the abundant friendliness and hospitality of the Jordanian people, but I’m finding the whole situation to be very impactful.

I mentioned some of this last week when I wrote about why I was going to Jordan despite the recent terrorist attacks:

There are over 726,000 registered refugees living in Jordan, mostly from Syria. 93% of Syrian refugees in Jordan live on less than $96 per month. Syrians are estimated to comprise ~13% of the overall population in Jordan — a significant percentage anywhere, but especially in a country of fewer than 10 million people.

Jordan is not a particularly wealthy country (Jordan ranks 89th in terms of GDP factoring in purchasing power parity), and this influx of people naturally puts a strain on housing, access to water, and other resources. Competition over resources can lead to increased conflict even in otherwise peaceable communities, and as small countries like Jordan and Lebanon shoulder more and more of the economic burden of regional conflicts, the risks of societal schisms increase.

To add to that, tourism revenues have been declining in Jordan, which isn’t that surprising when you look at a map of the region. But encouraging a peaceful and prosperous Jordan is beneficial to everyone right now.

So going to Jordan and spending money is a small thing, but it’s a thing I can do.

And being here, I feel compelled to help beyond that.

To that end, I’ve set up a fundraising page through Mercy Corps – they’ve been working in Jordan since 2003, so they have the staff and local knowledge to work effectively as the Syrian refugee crisis puts further strain on the region.

These are the types of organizations my husband and I like to support year-round, both abroad and at home. Crisis relief is important, of course, but we choose to focus our giving on programs that contribute to long-term structural change, like helping impoverished families find food security, promoting literacy for women and girls, and improving infrastructure.

You can read more about the work Mercy Corps is doing in Jordan, and the resource pressure (particularly with water) as more and more people take refuge in Jordan.


It’s an organization I feel good about supporting, and feel strongly about doing so in this case. In fact, I’ll be matching the first $5,000 in donations dollar to dollar. My hope is that by combining our resources we can make even more of an impact — if everyone reading this gave even $1 we’d raise thousands of dollars. Mercy Corps is a registered charity (and they take credit cards!), so your donation may be tax deductible.

That being said, please don’t feel pressured at all. Like I mentioned the other day, I generally prefer to do my giving privately, and fully appreciate how important and personal charity can be. If you have other organizations you like to support please do that instead (and perhaps share them in the comments for others who may be similarly inclined).

I would encourage everyone, however, to do a little extra giving this year if they can. There’s a lot going on in the world, and even small amounts of money (or time) can make a tremendous difference. And I think it’s especially important for those of us who have the privilege of traveling as much as we do to help where we can.

Regardless, thanks for considering it, and we’ll be back to regularly-scheduled miles and points programming soon!


Link: Donate to support humanitarian efforts in Syria & surrounding countries

  1. Thanks for writing this, Tiffany. I was just in Jordan last month and saw several things that hurt my heart. I wanted to mention that a few of us in the miles and points community have started, and we are working us use frequent flier miles to unite families separated by conflict. I was able to use miles to fly a woman and her two children from a refugee camp in Lebanon to Belgium to be with their husband/father.

    We have no staff and are working 100% on a volunteer basis, so every penny or mile donated will go to help refugees.

  2. Wow. You are loaded. Happy new year. I was reading on reddit that “Saudi Arabia has not taken one Syrian refugee but has donated a lot of money to open hundreds of mosques in Europe. The Trojan horse of Islam looks like this” and I have to agree. I would like to see the rich country of Saudi Arabia take in poor people of other countries and OTHER RELIGIONS and give them resources to be successful without trying to convert them.

    Sorry but you should expect political comments in this post. Good luck.

  3. It would be more prudent to support a charity that stop these people breeding like rabbits! How selfish and uncaring of Syrians in these camps to bring a child into the world….oh hold on the liberal suckers will give money as their bleeding hearts see these poor unfortunate kids!

    Grow up and get a proper perspective on life.

    Syria is a basket case riven with sectarian violence that your money will only exacerbate.

    Assad, despite all his faults, held the country together. Now foreign influences have made this task impossible. The worrying thing is that this sectarian hatred is being exported to the liberal west and it is 1000% incompatable to our way of life.

  4. @Credit

    Thank you for politicizing a post about charity early on. As much as I hate what you just did, I feel inclined to respond.

    Saudi Arabia has hosted almost 2.5 million Syrians since the crisis began, they aren’t called refugees and aren’t kept in tents though. Instead they are given temporary worker visas which entitle them to free healthcare and education in addition to jobs.
    Go ahead look it up.

    On another note, I said it beffore that OMAAT is a travel blog but I feel it’s slowly becoming more of a political, although well-intended, this post will turn into a fiasco.

    Focus on travel and points guys.

  5. Agree with you 100%, Tiffany. Jordan is a wonderful country, deeply burdened right now. Thanks for doing this.


  6. Excellent post – with excellent timing too may I add. Glad to see posts in these types of blogs to show that travelling is not just about having fun, but also helps inspire more people to contribute to meaningful projects, or at least become more aware of important issues in this world. 🙂

  7. Glad to see a traveler blogger addressing more important issues than just points and miles. Puts things into perspective. Thanks Tiffany!!

  8. I admire your initiative…..but keep in mind that about 50% of Jordan population are of Palestinian descent who were kicked out/ flee the 1948 and 1967 wars with Israel…with hundreds of thousands still living in refugee camps across Jordan to this day….and hoping someday that that they will go back….wait their lands being occupied and settled by the chosen people…

  9. @mateusz if you’re not working on minimum spend Flexperks cards are usually rewarding for charitable spend.

  10. Thanks Tiffany,
    I am a Jordanian born living in Australia and I would love to work with one of those organisations in Jordan. Does Mercy have locally engaged staff working in Jordan like CARITAS? I would also like to be in contact with you personally if possible.

    I look forward to your response asap.

  11. You should keep your personal charity private.
    You are an American flying in from above and based on your view and explanations you receive and thinking that dollars can change something that is much older than you or your currency.
    You should consider staying with your strengths and leave the political review out of your work.

  12. Research Mercy Corp. thoroughly before handing over your cash.
    They already receive two thirds of their budget thru government grants.
    Take a look thru their IRS report and executive salary listings.

    Tread carefully here.

  13. @LondonLad – wow, that post is an impressive display. Of what, I’m not sure…a total lack of compassion, combined with selective ignorance of events in Syria? First off, “breeding like rabbits?” Do you have any evidence that Syria has a higher-than-average birth rate before the war started? This is bordering on outright racism. As for the rest, Assad “held the country together” through brutal repression of anyone who suggested that perhaps, just perhaps, it would be nice if the people of Syria had a say in their leaders. He could have prevented the civil war (or at least limited it to ISIS – ISIL, Daesh, whatever) by working with his critics to build a real democracy. He chose the path of repression and brutality against the citizens he supposedly cares about.

    And D.E. Whitt, nowhere in her post is Tiffany suggesting she is thinking about anything more than relieving the short-term suffering of those already displaced. That’s all she’s saying, nothing more. Her dollars can’t change the geopolitical situation, but they can buy food and medical supplies for the displaced. You don’t have to have a deeper knowledge of the background to see (even with her American eyes “flying in from above”) to see see people living in shabby tents with minimal food or medical support. What do you suggest, she (and everyone else) just let the displaced Syrians starve to death? Yeesh…

    (Charity Navigator gives Mercy Corps an overall rating of 88 on a scale of 100, with admin expenses at 11.3% of funds raised and fundraising expenses of 4.8%. Charity Watch puts their overhead at 16%, with an overall rating of A-. Their financial statements are properly audited. They appear to have quite a bit of debt, and they do get a lot of funding from government, but all in all, their financial situation and funds use ratios are reasonable, pretty good for a charity of this type – they’re comparable to, for example, Oxfam America, which has the same overall Charity Watch rating of A-. Oxfam’s overhead ratio is slightly higher, at 23%.)

  14. @ SamOH — Indeed, and there are refugees from Iraq and Iran as well. Jordanians are incredibly welcoming, and that extends to hosting these large groups of people despite having limited resources.

    As a Bedouin I was speaking with the other day said, “Yes, it is difficult, but where else will they go?”

  15. Do you mean that a country has the right to register and really find out who is coming in their country?
    As for the 726,000— a place is being prepared for them. They are going back to their
    homeland Syria and ASSad is telling Russia and the world that now he is ready to rule and take care of his people. While his wife and family live in posh London.
    Isn’t that why Russia got involved in this—to help other people. Isn’t this their track
    record in other countries?
    Thank you Obama and your state dept. for helping this to come to fruition. You can trust the Communists to be Communists.
    Next we are going to see Ukraine fully restored and given back to it’s people. This is wonderful.

  16. On point, Tiffany. I would just add that Jordan has been literally a refugee dumpling ground for decades….

  17. I hope President Trump can implement his great idea of safe zones in Syria so the refugees don’t have to go to other countries but can stay in their own.

  18. Hi Tiffany,

    Sorry you have to endure all these commenters who are so jumpy over the unfortunate people on the other side of the earth 🙁

    And thank you for reminding us that the world (that we in the travel community treasures so much) belongs to more than just those living in rich countries. Yes especially because we enjoy exploring and experiencing, we should feel more connected to our fellow human beings.

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