On a hot summer day, one day before the start of the holy month of Ramadan, in one of Jordan’s largest parks, Al Hussein National Park, more than a hundred Youth:Work Jordan (YWJ) program participants traveled all the way from Irbid to M’aan to play their favorite sport: soccer.

Youth:Work Jordan is a five-year initiative of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the International Youth Foundation (IYF), and the Jordanian Ministry of Social Development. YWJ enhances the prospects for disadvantaged young people by increasing their employability and entrepreneurship skills, improving local services for young people by making them more youth friendly, and engaging them in activities that benefit themselves and develop their communities.

The tournament celebrated the accomplishments of the program’s implementing partners: The Jordan Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD), Jordan River Foundation (JRF), and the Jordan Career Education Foundation (JCEF), which organized the sporting event, bringing together youth from a wide geographic area.

The YWJ program has found that only four percent of youth in its target communities participate in civic activities, with six percent taking part in arts, sports, or cultural activities. The tournament is just one of YWJ’s activities designed to promote active civic engagement among youth, and provide youth-friendly services that enable young people to pursue their hobbies and interests in safe, nurturing environments. Similar activities supported through YWJ include the renovation of neighborhood parks, Yallah Shabab monthly camps, an open mic event in Russeifeh, and a series of TEDxDeadSea salons.

The tournament offered an excellent opportunity for team building, not only for youth, but for YWJ partners. Participating youth who rarely have the opportunity to travel to such events outside their communities had the chance to interact with a diverse group of young Jordanian citizens, including the Greater Amman Municipality’s soccer team. The prevailing spirit of goodwill was evident through the cheers made by all teams for the team from M’aan, which eventually won first place, with Jordan Valley coming in second.

“This was the best sport day ever!,” said one YWJ participant. “It’s great to play with youth from different communities in Jordan,” said another. “Thanks for thinking of us and what we want,” echoed a third.

The event will be followed by a second tournament where teams will include youth from six YWJ communities: M’aan, Zarqa, Irbid, Russeifeh, East Amman, and Jordan Valley.