Zaatari Radio broadcasts on 97.3FM, and is run alongside Acting for Change International, a humanitarian organisation created by Kotaiba Alabdullah, a Syrian humanitarian who relocated to Jordan in 2011. Acting for Change is a community-based organisation that aims empower war-affected people with the means to improve their lives whilst providing aid in locations other organisations do not act. Located roughly two kilometres from Zaatari Refugee Camp, the population of Zaatari Village has more than doubled since the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, with the influx of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing conflict - mostly from Homs and Palmyra. It is estimated that over 15,000 Syrian refugees now live in Zaatari Village. Unlike the camp, where many large organisations have operations, the host community of Zaatari is largely unsupported by larger NGOs on any permanent basis. However, Acting For Change commit their work to areas where larger NGOs are unwilling to work, and established their Centre in Zaatari Village as a means to help war-affected children there continue their education and give them the chance to create better futures for themselves.
The workshops with the children always accumulated into radio shows aimed at our project objectives: to broadcast health campaigns, share important information, and to acts a creative community hub. Our approach to health campaigns were based on a recent article published in The Lancet written by Development Media International that created a model to predict the life-saving capability of health campaigns through the media based on evidence found in radio work conducted in Burkina Faso. The results were astonishing and brought the power of media in saving lives to the forefront of the world news. The model predicted media campaigns alone can reduce child mortality by 10%, and more cheaply than almost any other health intervention. This discipline defining study has shaped the way Zaatari Radio formulated shows in the Village. Health Campaigns were a key benchmark of success for the project, and we tailored our approach to workshops and broadcasts according to communicable diseases highlighted in the 2018 Acting For Change Needs Report. The most common communicable disease in the region was Respiratory Tract Infections (RTI), an infection caused by viruses which can be significantly prevented through regularly washing hands, coughing into a tissues then throwing it away and covering the mouth when sneezing. These issues were at the forefront of formulating radio shows in a bid to change their behaviour to hygiene, as well changed attitudes of those listening to the broadcast.
Working with Acting for Change, Zaatari Radio supports Zaatari Village and those living there when larger NGOs are not as willing. In Summer 2018, three Zaatari Radio volunteers travelled to Jordan to establish Zaatari Radio and offer radio-based workshops to refugees in the area. The shows that they created were designed for specifically for war-affected inhabitants of Zaatari village: broadcasting important information, health messages and creative radio shows. The founder of Acting for Change, Kotaiba Alabdullah, highlights how the training centre provides psychological support for the children as well as means to forget about their worries for a little while. Following from this mantra, Zaatari Radio prepared a curriculum for the children of Acting for Change's school to work on that accumulated into the station's first radio shows. These were carefully formulated to not only provide fun and creative projects, but also teach valuable innovative and easily transferable skills to the children. We worked on hosting radio shows in English and Arabic, practicing public addressing in both languages, as well as workshops focusing on upcycling, health, music and sport.