Dr. Curt Rhodes
December 06, 2022
Founder's Series: Our Founder and Chief Vision Officer, Dr. Curt Rhodes, on what it means to serve the last.

Always. Without fail. Every year. There was always a casserole on the table - sweet potatoes drenched in butter with toasted mini-marshmallows floating on top. Simply an expected feature of the pre-cholesterol-awareness cuisine I grew up with in the South of the USA. Whew! Good that those days are over! But it was a family tradition. Didn't feel quite like Thanksgiving without it.

Questscope has some family traditions, too. And Questscope would not be the same without them. Here is one of my favorites. 

Non-formal education means that a young person who left school early or never enrolled at the right age can study with us and get formal certification outside that formal system. When we initiated this program in 2003 for second chances for out-of-school youth in Jordan, it was considered by others to be a nice idea that probably wouldn't work. Why would kids, who had exited a system that had alienated them, want to come back to learn? And what would make it different this time around?

The difference was a facilitator - an experienced teacher - willing to mentor a learner. Willing to join as an adult in a partnership with a young person in a learning process that honored a kid's struggle to figure out life, including getting the diploma to open doors to go up and not down.

That was truly "magic sauce." Imagine having a teacher who believes in you, listens to you, has your back, champions you, and gets you to succeed right where you had failed before! That’s hitting the sweet spot that (re)activates the thirst to learn.

Ziad's father, with 30 years of experience, was exactly that kind of facilitator. Ziad was amazed at what his dad accomplished with "throwaway" youth – those who took too many wrong turns too early in life. Ziad decided to make that same kind of difference in his professional life as a teacher. He trained with us as a mentor and got even more training to become a qualified facilitator in our non-formal education program.

The amazing things youth accomplished together with Ziad created a kind of Questscope family tradition – father passing on vision to son. Getting kids to learn and believe in their better selves - to go up – was like the traditional sweet potato casserole at Thanksgiving. Without this awesomely caring adult-youth partnership, school just felt like putting in time, going nowhere - so why stick around? 

But it did not stop there!  Ziad’s sister, Elham, had her eye on that weird learning stuff that her dad and brother were up to. She brought the adult-youth learning partnership into the classes she taught in formal school. With the same thirst-button success.

Ziad and his sister and their dad have "done a tradition" - passing between generations a valued practice - that reflects what energizes their hearts and those kids’ hearts. A thousand facilitators like Ziad and untold numbers of teachers like Elham are mentoring tens of thousands of young people to overcome educational barriers that rob them of dreams and ambitions. And get those future doors opened.

We are on to something, here. Traditions can make life go so well. Like marshmallows make something that grows in the ground (a potato!) sweet and toasty. The new tradition is that learning transforms us when we experience it through good relationships. Not such a new idea actually, but for each kid who experiences it, it IS new! And it opens doors. And gives an up future, not a down one!

Join as we go up the down staircase!


Curt pic1
Founder & Chief Vision Officer

Dr. Curt Rhodes

Curt Rhodes has spent close to 40 years working with, and on behalf of, marginalized communities and young people across the Middle East.

As the recipient of the 2014 Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award, Dr. Rhodes was recognized by Tufts University for his demonstrated compassion and tenacity in creating a highly effective and determined organization dedicated to the survival and nurturing of the most vulnerable and disenfranchised.

In recognition of his work with marginalized youth in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and in the region, Dr. Rhodes was awarded 2011 Social Entrepreneur of the Year for the Middle East and North Africa by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.

Dr. Rhodes began his career in the Middle East in the early 1980s, as Assistant Dean in the School of Public Health at the American University of Beirut. During the 1982 invasion of west Beirut, he volunteered in a community-based clinic alongside students and friends, doing around-the-clock triage for wounded and ill civilians. That was when the seed idea for Questscope began to take shape. Living and working with people in great suffering compelled him to find a way that he and others in the Middle East could assist the most vulnerable: participating with the voiceless ones in invisible communities.

In 1988, Questscope was founded with the goal of putting the last, first. From the beginning, Questscope worked closely with local communities, identifying their aspirations and together addressing their greatest needs.