This series aims to shed light on the people who are the underlying driving power of change in the Jordanian society: The ordinary citizens with extraordinary ideas, stories or actions.
If I was to describe this man in one sentence, it would be “a man you can never get bored listening to”. Still, that won’t be enough; because you don’t just enjoy what he says, you also come out of it feeling like a better human being already, or at least wanting to be better and feeling that you can.
Jamal Al-Salah started his professional life as a civil engineer, but day after day that field proved more and more unbefitting for him, for he was building houses for people, while his inner calling was something totally different, something that involved talking to people, something that had human interaction at its very core. Perhaps the last stroke came when he started to see the amount of corruption that goes into engineering projects, and when others started telling him that if he continued to live by his principles and base his work on honesty and integrity, he will declare bankruptcy. Dealing with this mindset in such a profit driven environment, he knew it was time he moved to another playground.
Mr. Jamal’s journey in the field of Development and training started in 1989, when he took a training course with another 15 people, after which he was selected among 8 people for an advanced training and then 5 out of these 8 were chosen for another specialized course on moderation. What’s interesting is that after the course Mr. Al-Salah invited the other 4 trainees over after the course was over, and being one to believe there are no shortcuts to any place worth going, he suggested that they all kick off their careers as assistant moderators in order to gain some practical experience, to which their reply was: “If you’re not confident enough that you can make it as a moderator then speak for yourself”. He wasn’t shaken by that, instead he went ahead and started working as an assistant moderator for several projects while the others started as moderators right off the bat. Several years after that, he is the only one of them who continued in the field of moderation, but that’s not all, he’s also praised now as being the best moderator and trainer in the region, with his own training and consulting company, INTERACTION, under the slogan (ensures effective communication and cooperation) We were created to interact.
When asked why he chose the field of development, Mr. Jamal explains that the billions of funds that have been pumped into development since the 1950’s for the most part haven’t met the needs of the targeted groups, and that’s because of the development projects weren’t planned properly, simply because they were imposed on those groups or communities instead of being created by them. And that’s where the moderator comes into play: to help facilitate the communication between the different groups in society in order to reach a common ground where everyone can agree on the same needs and priorities, and by doing that they are more likely to work hard to make it happen in order to validate their choices. It also allows people of different backgrounds and interests to understand the position of the other in conflict or other opinion, and try to shape knowledge and priorities according to the crossing interests to finally reach a point agreeable by all parties. This is a great interaction between humans, bringing their scientific knowledge and personal thinking, institutional and personal interest from individuality to collectivism.
For Jamal Al-Salah, his work is a continuous learning process. Think about it this way, each workshop or working session of 3-4-5 days you meet with people of expertise in a certain field, and you come out of the session having added more to your knowledge in that particular field, not to mention the things you learn through human interaction with people from different backgrounds. It’s a win-win process where you can teach and learn at the same time, and it’s a highly humanitarian work.
Getting tired is a mindset issue, when having fun one cannot get tired or board in contrary one enjoys hobby and wish to have more time . People get tired of their work and what they should do when they don’t like it, while if you work from your heart then you are “hobbying” – and to practice your hobby you need endless time. The Chinese say (love what you do to do what you love), Jamal says great results are only produced when worked out joyfully.
A good example of that was his work with the Family Protection Department, where he discovered new things about parenting and realized the truth about individual differences, which reflected on his relationship with his own children. “The only difference between me and my son is that I was born before him and got to experience things he hasn’t, and yet as parents we try to impose those experiences on our children instead of letting them have their own experiences”. Which also brings me to the issue of personal differences between people. The way he sees it is that if people weren’t different the way they are, if we all were on the same page, we would still be living in caves. The clash of two different positive ideas results in a better idea, that’s how progress happens.
There’s no way I can fit all the things he talked about during our 2-hour conversation in one post. From his work with UNIFEM on the project to empower women business owners, to the detailed explanation of the trait theories, illustrated with examples, to the stories of the people who came across and got to learn life lessons from, or through them. One of those was a Sudanese man called Othman, who had prosthetic arms, yet he was a calligrapher, which made him realize that it all happens in the brain, the tool isn’t the problem. You just need to set your mind on it, whatever “it” is that you want to do.
In a nutshell, Jamal Al-Salah is a believer in the power of creativity and education towards positive change. For change is inevitable, you either make it happen yourself or you just watch it happen. It’s as simple as that: Change or be changed. He was given the choice, and for him, it was a no-brainer.