We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.
Gideon Culman is AUA’s Program Officer and is currently leading the 2012 Building Peace by Building Homes trip in Jordan. Below is Gideon’s post about his thoughts on embarking on this exciting adventure. To find an amazing volunteer opportunity, search the AUA Directory of Recommended Organizations© today!
I’m one of America’s Unofficial Ambassadors. Today I’m traveling to Jordan to lead the Building Peace by Building Homes trip. What has me step up to be an unofficial ambassador is my taste for adventure—my eagerness to see up close how people around the world live, the joy I derive from just being myself in new settings, and my commitment to putting America’s best foot forward by being of service.
I acquired this taste for adventure tagging along with my Mom as she launched a global career as an artist. By the time I was ten, I had visited countries in Africa, Europe, South America and Asia. Highlights of my early unofficial ambassadorial career include attending public school in Germany for a decade and a blind-faith move in my mid-twenties to the heavily Muslim Western Chinese megalopolis of Lanzhou to learn Mandarin from scratch.
The Building Peace by Building Homes trip is way more than just an adventure. Seven unofficial ambassadors, each representing a different facet of American life, are coming together as an expression of our joint commitment to build people-to-people partnerships with the Muslim World. We are all first-time visitors to Jordan. We will help build a house for a disadvantaged family in the ancient city of Salt. We will meet with Jordanian students and members of Jordanian civil society, we will experience city life and village life, and we will visit the Dead Sea and the caravan trade hub of Petra.
Even before the Building Peace by Building Homes team sets foot on Jordanian soil, our trip is causing stereotypes to unravel. Earlier this month, the team held a webinar with students from the King’s Academy boarding school outside Amman. Fully expecting a homogenous student body, I was astonished that the high school students I saw live on my computer screen appeared at first glance more heterogeneous than my own remarkably diverse team. Can’t wait to see what surprises the rest of the trip holds in store!