Madaba: What Marco Desalvo Experienced in Meeting Groups of Refugees in Jordan


“The suffering we encountered made us feel ‘one’ with them, making us feel like world citizens.”

“Project HOST SPOT”, August 7-19, 2016

For 12 days in August, Marco Desalvo, President of New Humanity, together with 55 young people from various European and Middle Eastern countries participated in the first phase of “Project Host Spot that took place at the reception center for refugees in Madaba, Jordan.  Ten Non-Governmental Organizations from 9 countries including New Humanity promote this project. Erasmus+, a program of the European Union to offer opportunities for European students to study, train, gain experience, and volunteer abroad, co-funds the project.
Mr. Desalvo shared his impressions with us at the end of this intense experience.

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Mr. Desalvo shared his impressions with us at the end of this intense experience.

We came not to teach but to learn, not to speak, but to listen. Eventually, we would speak but in our own countries to tell everyone what we have seen, experienced, and heard.

We began each day with a motto to live as our ‘daily input.’  The first day’s motto was, ‘understand others as we want to be understood.’ Understand others, or ‘stand under’ so that we do not feel that we already know everything.  Be here to ‘make ourselves the other’ by putting ourselves at the service of others with the awareness that we have much to learn.

Desalvo in Jordan 2“While visiting those places of significance for the three great monotheistic religions, we went to the place where Jesus was baptized.  I was impressed to know that it is the lowest point on earth and it seemed to me to be a sign of the attitude that we should have towards each person we would meet.

We came from different European and Middle Eastern countries and also from New Zealand, the USA, and Argentina. By immersing ourselves in the culture of other people to understand them, we discovered that their point of view began to take shape for us in a very profound, simple, and true way.

“Together, we met with refugees – Syrians and Iraqis – who had stories of great sorrow told by families and children.

“I shall never forget Saheed and his story that he called ‘August 6.’ That was the day two years ago when his entire family including his mother who was not in any condition to walk, all had to rush to leave their home and their country without being able to take anything with them.  I certainly cannot imagine how they have lived for all these months, with their hope to return fading, and now, waiting for that phone call that will tell them that they will be received in another country.

“We encountered much suffering.  It made us feel one with them, and they with us. We felt a little bit like we had become ‘world citizens.’

Irreplaceable, precious, discreet, sources of hope and of life, of concrete love, of medicine for those they meet, all describes the work of the volunteers of Caritas Jordan.  Without them, thousands of refugees would not find a place to live or a means of surviving.  They would not have found hope. Without them, we would not have had the possibility to touch with our hands the most profound sense of the word ‘Caritas’, which is love.

Desalvo in Jordan 3Two weeks ago I was in Krakow, Poland, at the World Youth Day. I cannot remember how many times Pope Francis expressed this wish to the two million young people present: ‘Do not go into retirement when you are 25 years old.  Do not be couch potatoes.  Exchange your chair for a pair of walking shoes.  Aim high!  Dream!  They will accuse you of being dreamers because you believe in a new humanity that does not accept hatred between people, that does not see the borders of countries as barriers, and that preserves your traditions without selfishness and resentment. Do not get discouraged! With your smile and your open arms, you preach hope and you are a blessing for the one human family that is so well represented here. If you do not make your best effort, the world will never change.’

“Here in Jordan, I have met young people who are giving life to these words.

Their effort and commitment may seem like a drop in the ocean compared to the problems they are facing. But the ripple produced by a drop can go very far. And with young people like these, I am sure that the world will change.

“We arrived as ambassadors from our countries. This experience of these days in Jordan have transformed us into ambassadors of the refugees, of their suffering, and for peace throughout the world.”