Sarbys Centre: Working with Local Community to Preserve HeritageAug 14, 2017
Dr. Rifat Al-Zughool, a dentist and a community activist in Ajloun has a firm belief that more awareness should be raised about the Jordanian heritage, so he decided to apply to the project “Promoting Local Economic Development in Jordan” (PLEDJ) funded by the European Delegation to Jordan to start “Sarbys Centre”. His pitch was accepted and the project was launched officially in 2014.
“30 families are making profit out of selling their products in this showroom. Some of them used to participate in sporadic bazaars held in the governorate; now they have a permanent place to exhibit their products.”
Mission: Preserving Local Heritage
Sarbys overlooks a wonderful view of the Castle of Ajloun, it is dedicated to traditional folklore products and aims at preserving the unique heritage of Ajloun as well as vintage household items. Rusty radios, gorgeous chests, 200 years-old traditional clothes, musical instruments, handicrafts, ceramics art, copper and pottery kitchen ware and telescopes immediately catch the eyes of Sarbys’ visitors.
“Sarbys Centre started as a voluntary project, it evolved over the years to become a marketing centre for traditional products” says Rifat. The center is also a sales outlet for women who work from home thus generating a bit of income for the local community. The space is offered for individuals, civil associations and micobusinesses for free, many of which are EU-supported projects.
“We are not limited to folklore and local heritage only, we also welcome people who work in other industries like traditional food production, dried food, and herbs. These are very common products in Ajloun” he explains.
Putting New Skills to Work
The grant Rifat received from the EU covered most of the center’s expenses but the real value of being accepted in to the PLEDJ project is the professional training Rifat and his partner received. The business and soft skills training workshops taught them practical marketing skills that helped them sell the products displayed at the center. They have also followed online marketing tips and started a Facebook page to promote the center and its activities.
Rifat didn’t stop there, he contacted the Ministry of Education to arrange student visits to the centre. “This will expose the students to our beautiful heritage and educate them about the historical value of Ajloun” he adds.
Working with the Community
“30 families are making profit out of selling their products in this showroom. Some of them used to participate in sporadic bazaars held in the governorate; now they have a permanent place to exhibit their products. We take a margin from their sales profit to pay the rent and other fixed expenses in order to sustain the center” says Rifat.
“Being able to generate an income of 40-50 JD a month is a very good start for local women. And it can be more or less depending on sales of course” he explains.
Sarbys Center offers a series of free training workshops for the local community to teach hand crafts such as sand painting and embroidery with the help of the professional trainers.
Rifat dreams about turning Sarbys to a hot touristic stop for Jordanians and forgeigners alike. Being located in a special geographical area overlooking Palestine from one side, the new city of Ajloun from another and the Castle of Ajloun from a third; Sarbys has the potential and value to fulfil Rifat’s dream. More tourists means more services and thus more work for the local community.
He has an ambitious plan to build a ceramic workshop within the same area space to encourage art students and those interested to learn the skills they need to create items. New skills could mean new job opportunities for the students and the community.
It is worthy of mention that the program “Promoting Local Economic Development in Jordan” (PLEDJ) is funded by the European Delegation to Jordan managed by the Ministry of Interior and implemented by UNDP. It aims at fostering two sectors in the governorates of Ajloun and Tafileh: Small-Scale Food Processing and Tourism Services.