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Mahmoud Hamdi (Stanford ’24) Reflects on SGS Summer Internship at UNRWA in Amman, Jordan

Mahmoud Hamdi is a Junior from North New Jersey studying Psychology on the pre-med track. Outside of his classes, he is an active member of the Muslim Student Union, a volunteer at Cardinal Free Clinics (free walk-in clinic for bay area residents without insurance), and a proud coordinator of the Muslim Mental Health Initiative where he gets the chance to provide mental health resources for the Muslim community at Stanford. In his free time, he likes to play soccer and flag football with friends, learn about Islam, and work out.

Mahmoud spent the summer of 2022 in Amman, Jordan, interning at UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) with joint financial support from Stanford Global Studies Internship Program and the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies.

UNRWA provides humanitarian services that encompass primary and vocational education, primary health care, relief and social services, infrastructure and camp improvement, microfinance and emergency response for Palestinian refugees. It provides health services to over 1.9 million refugees and 5.8 million refugees are covered by its protection mandate.

More than 2 million registered Palestine refugees live in Jordan, the largest number of Palestine refugees of all UNRWA fields. About 18 percent live in the ten recognized Palestine refugee camps throughout the country, all ten of which UNRWA services fully.

In his own words, Mahmoud (Stanford ’24) reflects back on his time interning at UNRWA in Jordan:

“My Global Studies trip was not only the first time living on my own (not counting college because I get food from the dining hall and am surrounded by colleagues living in the same situation as myself), but also the first time being all on my own in a completely foreign country. I learned basic skills from living on my own in my apartment like cooking, but also got the chance to improve my Arabic living in Jordan. Not to mention, I had to know how to navigate the city all on my own! Sometimes, someone needs to push you in the water to learn how to swim!

I have never worked in a place that conducted such meaningful work as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Amman, Jordan. While there, I worked in the Public Health Department which provided free healthcare from health centers around Jordan for Palestine Refugees. Many of the people working there are of Palestinian origin themselves and they are spending their lives work supporting the Palestinian refugees.

A special thanks to my Palestinian boss at UNRWA, who was an immigrant from Gaza, who made sure I was comfortable and doing meaningful work on a day-to-day basis: Dr. Khalil Abu Naqera. The second I met him, I knew this was a man I would enjoy being around. Never was there a second that felt awkward or embarrassing around him. We ate together, prayed together, and worked together making a strong relationship on the work-level, social-level, and spiritual-level. 

Together we visited health centers around Amman and got the chance to interact with the many doctors and patients that go through the health centers. As much as 1,000 patients are treated from 7am-1pm in just one health center.

When not at Health centers we wrote articles for the International Diabetes federation regarding Palestinian refugee diabetes regulation, created medication flow charts for doctors at health centers, and I got the chance to help make public health flyers for COVID-19 prevention at the workplace.

In my free time I got the chance to visit ancient Roman castles with my extended family, pray in some of the oldest mosques in the world, and eat the best kanafa and shawarma in the world! I hope I get the chance to re-unite with the people at UNRWA once again, this will be a summer I never forget."

Stanford Global Studies offers Stanford students an opportunity to extend classroom learning to immersive, cultural, and professional experiences through the Global Studies Internship Program. Learn more about the SGS Internship Program here >>>.