Zeinab of Zarqa

Zeinab of Zarqa, Jordan, has endured more than her share of hardship. A woman in her mid-50s, she looks much older than her years because she bears sole responsibility for her family, two of whom are in poor health. Her husband suffers from heart disease and her 24 year-old son has cancer. Not long ago, Zeinab wasn’t even able to cook hard-boiled eggs for her sons because broken eggs are so much cheaper to buy. But now, she says, thanks to the Near East Foundation’s Enhancing Economic Resilience for Poor Iraqis and Jordanians (EER) project, she is more than able to cook hard-boiled eggs for her family.

Five years ago, Zeinab began work as a cook in a local charity. Unfortunately, this work was based on customers’ orders and did not provide adequate income to meet all of her family’s needs. And as caregiver for her husband and son, she needed to be close to them at all times. So, she stopped working despite needing income to feed her family. Then Zeinab heard about the EER project and decided to attend training courses. “I learned new information and gained new skills about the market and how to calculate costs,” she says. “Additionally, the training helped me overcome the feeling of shame I was suffering from.”

With the financial support provided by NEF, Zeinab purchased the equipment needed to begin producing homemade dishes, cooked meals, preserved pickles, and sweets. Soon her son and husband began pitching in to help bake and package the meals, as well as offering her encouragement. Day by day Zeinab’s customer base grew, and it has now reached more than 400 clients from different areas in the Zarqa governorate and even the capital, Amman. Her income also has increased, with an estimated monthly profit of USD 700. Zeinab says her self-confidence has increased along with her income and feels that she, and her family, have been given a new life—she even bought a television and painted the house! “I highly appreciate the NEF support,” she says. Without this support, I wouldn’t be able to achieve my dreams.”

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