An inspiring story of a mother who followed her own instincts to open a business and create a unique after-school program for children in the industrial city of Zarqa
15 February 2016 – Children discuss stories they read in their weekly book club meeting with Eman Awamleh, founder of Carnaval Play & Learn
Creating Chances for Zarqa’s Families: How This Small Business is Helping Children Learn & Thrive Through Play
Every few seconds, the narrow wooden floor creaks as a group of giggling children flows through the corridors of Carnaval Play & Learn; an after-school and summer program in the city of Zarqa located to the northeast of Amman. Each laugh and slam of the door is music to Eman Awamleh’s ears, a mother turned inspirator who founded this one of a kind center in Jordan.
After spending weeks searching for a program that combines fun and a constructive learning experience to develop the creativity and knowledge of her 2-year-old son Yanal, without any luck, Eman decided to design her own curriculum. “I quickly grew frustrated. All the centers were either too expensive or didn’t offer what I was looking for. Plus, all the content that I found online was in English and I knew it just wasn’t the right fit”.
Her friends quickly noticed how effective her curriculum was and started sending their children to her house after school and on the weekends. And shortly afterwards, Eman began teaching the program as an extra-curricular activity in different private schools around Amman as a freelancer at first before signing annual contracts with them. Things were moving quickly for Eman and the community clearly lacked a program like hers that she knew she had to open her own center. So five years later, with a capital of only 20 Jordanian Dinars, Eman was only able to launch a Facebook page, and that is when the idea of Carnaval Play & Learn started coming to life. She had gained enough popularity over the years and through social media to have the confidence to apply for a small business grant from the USAID Jordan Local Enterprise Support Project, to help her fund this idea and open up this center that not only benefits youth, but also women and the entire community.
Carnaval Play & Learn officially opened up in April 2016 in Zarqa, a city located in East Jordan, one hour away from the capital Amman. According to Eman, Zarqa is very industrial and is underserved when it comes to recreational activities for children of all ages, as day care centers are the only available option for toddlers, leaving older children with no place to go to for an after school or a summer program.
The idea is simple: a center that teaches children critical and creative thinking, and fosters their intellectual curiosity through play and fun activities. It is not unusual to see little kids dressed up as princesses and pirates, while others are going up a small rock climbing wall as Eman believes that creative and imaginative play is a natural way for children to learn about the world.
Carnaval is not just a place that offers an exceptional learning opportunity for children, it is a center that employs around 20 women and students, and allows them to become active members in the economy. It also gives adults the chance to develop skills that can be turned into careers such as drawing, handicrafts and fashion design. “We encourage stay-at-home mothers to come to the center to take one of our courses. We provide them with all the supplies, and build the schedule around their times of availability with incredibly easy payment terms. And the best part is that their children always have a safe place to spend time in while they’re taking their lesson”.
The people of Zarqa were thirsty for a center like Carnaval. Some parents make a daily 30-minute trip just to drop off their kids at the center. “We try to give children an experience that’s unlike anything they’ve ever seen; something they’ll never learn and experience in school or from television.”