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Becky Allison: Our Assistant Stonemasonry Trainer tells us about her new life in Mafraq

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From South London to Mafraq

In July 2019 Becky Allison joined our stonemasonry team in Mafraq in Jordan as an Assistant Trainer. Based in London, Becky took a leap of faith and packed her bags for a summer in the town right on the border with Syria. Here’s her story….

When I wake up to the sound of the call to prayer from the local mosque, my previous life in London feels a lifetime away.   Compared to the long stressful commute by public transport to my previous job my current journey to work is a gentle 10 minute stroll through the busy waking town. And the only stress is whether I can make it past the enticing smells of the falafel and bread shops without succumbing to a second breakfast.

So how did I end up in Mafraq in Jordan as an Assistant Stonemasonry trainer?

While looking through the listings for London Craft Week 2019 one particular talk caught my eye. I duly registered to attend and on a very rainy day in May I attended a talk at the Imperial War Museum by John Darlington on WMF’s Stonemasonry Programme.

Why this talk? Well 10 years ago I was working as a PA to a member of the House of Lords whose work mainly focused on the Middle East region and who was also a strong advocate for women’s empowerment in these countries. Despite really enjoying this role I made the tough decision that I needed a new personal challenge and left this career to retrain as a Stonemason.  Training successfully completed at the Building Crafts College I then spent 3 enjoyable years as a stonemason with the privilege of working on wonderful buildings such as the V&A Museum and The Palace of Westminster.  However over the years I gradually I moved back into the administrative side of the stone industry before moving onto the wider fields of construction and heritage.

This is the yard by our training centre. Taha, our technician is constantly rigging up tarp covers to keep the sun off . In July it got to at least 39 celsius out there but felt a lot hotter. Thanks to the position of the building we get a breeze most days which makes it much nicer. Here a group of students are making sure their stone pieces fit together well.

This is the yard by our training centre. Taha, our technician is constantly rigging up tarp covers to keep the sun off. In July it got to at least 39 celsius out there but felt a lot hotter. Here a group of students are making sure their stone pieces fit together well.

An opportunity that couldn't be missed

Becky Allison with Rema at Umm Al Jimal

This is me with Reema at Umm Al Jimal, a historic site on the outskirts of Mafraq.

John’s talk was fascinating and it was inspiring to hear about the success of the first phase of training, the current students, and the development of the second phase of the programme.  Part way through his presentation John made a casual mention that they were looking for an Assistant Trainer and I suddenly thought that maybe this was a incredible opportunity to work on a wonderful project that would draw on all aspects of my rather eclectic work experience.

I quickly let John and Sarah know about my interest in the role and after a number of interviews and meetings I was lucky enough to be chosen for the position.  Within 7 weeks I had resigned from job, packed up all my belongings and put them in storage, had all my travel jabs, said goodbye to my friends and family and was on a flight to Jordan.

Central

This is the centre of Mafraq just a few minutes from the training centre. I pass this sign on my way to and from school everyday.