A life-changing experience

The Embassy’s Communications manager, Rana Nejem came back from London last week after accompanying four journalists from Jordan and Palestine to London. The feedback she got from them was so positive, that it seemed the perfect theme for a guest blog: 

“I cannot say it is a dream come true because I never even dreamed this could happen to me!”  Maha, Raeda, Fadi and Mahmoud were the winners of The Inquirer Award 2011. This project encourages investigative journalism in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq. Their prize was a one-week trip to the UK hosted and organized by The Thomson Foundation and funded by the FCO.

 

Winners in front of Big Ben

 “I cannot believe this is actually happening to me! I never dreamed I could get this chance!” Walking through the corridors of the House of Lords with Baroness Tonge; standing outside the famous black door of Number 10 Downing Street and going in to see a typical day at their press office; seeing the Locarno Suit inside the magnificent building of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and learning how the government communicates its policies to the public; sitting in the studio of Channel 4 News, the BBC Arabic Service and the Guardian newspaper and exchanging views with some of the top foreign correspondents in the country; a tour through some of the treasures held at the British Library including original documents and photographs of the region dating back to the 18th century; and to top it all, a boat trip on the River Thames, a bird’s eye view from the London Eye and a refreshing walk across Hyde Park.

I have been managing the Inquirer Awards since it was launched in 2003 and have over the years witnessed how the Inquirer project – both the training workshops and the competition – has motivated journalists and contributed to raising the professional standard of investigative journalism in the region.

Winners standing outside the famous black door of Number 10 Downing Street.

 For me, the most gratifying part of all was being part of the incredible learning experience of the winners’ first trip to London. They were like sponges; eager to soak in everything they saw and heard.

They wanted to know how the media worked in a functioning democracy and what a “shadow government” did. They wanted to know why the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Britain’s Finance Minister) is the most important member of the Cabinet and how civil servants ensured the continuity in government regardless of the political party in power.

How King Henry VIII changed the course of a nation for the woman he loved. And how a country can cherish and preserve its history while being at the cutting edge of science, technology and business. How crowds of people from all ages and backgrounds can “flow” through the Tube stations in a seemingly organized manner while respecting the etiquette of using the escalator and patiently waiting for their turn in a queue.

Winners Maha Shahwan and Raeda Hamra with Rana Nejem, Communications Manager at the British Embassy and Manager of the Inquirer Award Project.

 How people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds can share the equal opportunities of British citizens to take up leading roles in government, civil society and business. How the CEO of a company rides a bicycle to the office because the environment matters to him. And how a walk down a street can give one a taste of the best cuisines from Asia, India, the Middle East and Europe.

“Winning the Inquirer Award has raised the bar for me and given me the incentive to work harder.” Raeda said as our trip came to an end. “There is a whole world out there and so much for me to learn. This was truly a life-changing experience.”

This is exactly what the Inquirer Award is all about.

Rana Nejem
Communications Manager at the British Embassy Amman and Manager of The Inquirer Award project.

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