Empowering people to rebuild their lives

One of the most effective ways to back people experiencing displacement is by ensuring our programs contribute to long-term, sustainable change through a locally led approach.

Refugees and people who have been displaced often end up living in what was only intended to be a short-term, emergency relief situation for the long-term. Refugee camps are often at capacity and resources are highly strained.

According to Mikaela O’Neil, Act for Peace’s International Programs Coordinator, in one of the refugee camps where we work in Jordan, people face serious protection risks.

“Many of the refugees have been living in the camp for long periods of time, generations for some,” says Mikaela. “This particular camp is one of the poorest in Jordan, and there is a serious lack of livelihood options for the Syrian and Palestinian refugees living here. When people don’t have livelihood options, protection and safety issues become much more prevalent.”

Lack of income creates protection risks

These critical protection risks include skipping meals, taking on debt, early marriage, child labour, gender-based violence and children out of school. Many Syrian refugees consider returning to the war zone of Syria because they don’t have a way to survive in Jordan.

Since June 2022, Act for Peace has been piloting a program called ‘Forsa’ (Arabic for ‘opportunity’) to address these issues. Forsa provides a pathway out of poverty for Syrian and Palestinian refugees in urban settings in Jordan. Act for Peace works with the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR) to implement the Forsa program with funding from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and our supporters. Forsa builds families’ self-reliance, so they aren’t dependent on food assistance and unreliable sources of income.

Act for Peace and DSPR staff in Jordan. Khalid al Khaldi / Act for Peace

Local approach is key to success

According to Mikaela, this refugee led, locally focused approach is key to long-term success.

“Act for Peace is committed to decolonising aid and development,” she says. “This means we promote a locally led approach to our programs, where our partners and the community members themselves are driving the programs, and Act for Peace is backing them.

This leads to programs that are relevant to real needs and implemented in collaboration with local partners and communities, resulting in more positive impacts that last over the longer term.”

50 families (282 people) are enrolled in the program over an 18-month period, with equal representation from Palestinian and Syrian refugees. The holistic approach provides coaching, support and training for families on finances, life skills, business and technical skills.

Forsa also provides financial assistance for the first nine months to help families meet their basic needs while they focus on starting their income-generating project, as well as psychosocial support and access to social services. Families receive grants to start businesses and assistance to register their businesses or work permits or are supported with job or internship placements.

With families empowered to take the lead in their own journey out of poverty, the results are remarkable.

“Forsa recognises that the poorest and most vulnerable people face a range of barriers to self-reliance, so they need a holistic set of services and individualised support that is appropriate to their needs and focused on helping them reach their personal goals,” says Mikaela. “This approach works well because it doesn’t cut corners, and it treats the program participants as human beings with unique dreams and skill sets to be nurtured.”

Refugees leading change in their own communities

According to Mikaela many of the DSPR staff who facilitate the program come from families who have a history of seeking refuge in Jordan. This means they understand the issues refugees face and the importance of leading their own development process.

“The program’s mentors, who work closely with participants to guide and support their self-reliance journeys, are recruited directly from the refugee communities,” she says. “Refugees are the ones leading their own self-reliance journeys. They choose what type of business they want to start, for example. Lastly, they are provided with community-based protection training and join self-help groups to become empowered to claim their rights.”

While still in the pilot phase, the outcomes for refugee families are transformational. Key achievements since Forsa started in June 2022 include:


  • 98% of families have increased quality and quantity of daily meals
  • 100% of families have at least one reliable source of income
  • 78% of families have two reliable sources of income
  • 98% of families have increased their savings to better provide for their future


  • 83% of families report improved psychosocial wellbeing
  • 98% of families report improved roles of women in the home


  • 97% of families with school-aged children are now attending school regularly

The Forsa program has empowered people with a pathway out of poverty that is transforming families and refugee communities.

People like Akram*, who fled his home in Syria with his family in 2013, has a background in poultry farming. The Forsa project provided business and life skills training to start a poultry farming project for a reliable source of income. 

Akram with the chickens he is raising to improve his income.
Akram learnt how to start a business raising chickens through the Forsa program. Khalid al Khaldi / Act for Peace

“I bought an egg incubator and eggs, and during the first cycle, I got the chicks and raised them until they grew up and then sold them,” says Akram.

Akram has a rooster from his first cycle, and he plans to expand his egg farm and grow the business. “It will be my source of livelihood,” he says. “In six months, the project will be huge.” 

The Forsa project also provided Akram with emotional and financial support for eye surgery to improve his vision. He also received psychosocial support after losing his son to cancer.

Now, Akram’s hope has been restored for a brighter future for his family. “I pray that my sons will have a successful academic career, and reach the highest ranks,” he says. “And to live a decent life and remain a united family so that we can resist life’s challenges.”  

Rima*, a mother of six, has been living in Jordan for 20 years after fleeing Gaza in 2004. Three of her children have a disability and Rima struggled with isolation and the burden of raising her family. But everything changed when she joined the Forsa project.

“It is very nice to find people who feel for us and the situation we are living in of unemployment and poverty,” she says.

Rima was trained in sewing and now earns an income to provide for her family. “I thank them very much because without the Forsa project…my situation would not have improved and my debts would not have been paid, and I would remain unemployed.”

Rima learned how to sew through the Forsa project, helping her provide for her six children. Khalid al Khaldi / Act for Peace

Stable incomes transform families

Alaa is a Senior Livelihood Officer with DSPR and says having a stable income is key to empowering families.

“We ensure that these families have different sources of income,” says Alaa. “We fulfill the requirements that make their lives sustainable and stable and bring them out of poverty.”

“Your support reached people who had lost hope in life. They had no ambition for anything. They have now become distinguished, strong and steadfast families.”

I thank you very much because there is no project I have worked with here in Jordan that has done anything like this project.”

Building on its success, Act for Peace is implementing a similar program in a refugee community in Ethiopia in 2024. We look forward to sharing the journey with our valuable supporters who make this work possible.

Learn how you can help.

*people’s names changed for privacy

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