The Downtown center is a hub of activity on Wednesday morning, as CRP staff get the space ready for the day. Floors are swept, water coolers filled, doors unlocked and the tea is poured. Meanwhile, volunteers begin to arrive: there are the English teachers, and a Tai Chi teacher!
Summer Camp starts at 10.30 and runs all day; two sessions run simultaneously, an English class, led by an American volunteer, and a Tai Chi/ dance class led by a Chinese-American volunteer. The classes are split depending on age, and each class is about an hour, with a break for lunch!
Most of the kids have never tried Tai Chi before, so there is a lot of giggling as they watch their teacher. Then it’s time for their turn. Everyone is shy at first but they soon start to have fun!
Meanwhile, Brad leads an English conversation class in the next room. Together with an Arabic translator, they take the kids through basic English: hello, how are you?’ and ‘my name is Brad, what’s your name?’. Sitting cross-legged in a circle in the bright, colourful room, the atmosphere is relaxed and fun, and the teachers soon have the children playing games to help them remember the new English words. By the end of the class, everyone has had a go at speaking, even the quieter girls, when they can get a word in over the boys!
English classes for adults run throughout the day as well. They are split depending on ability level, from English Blue to English Yellow, in the ‘Apple Room.’ English classes are the most popular courses that CRP offers, providing an invaluable opportunity for adults to continue their education in Jordan. They’re also a great way to make friends and build a community network here in Amman. The classes are always a mixture of learning grammatical rules and writing, and then some open-ended discussions and debates. The women here say they like talking English the best!
Cooking classes are also a great way to socialise! Every Thursday, a nutrition and cooking class takes place, led by a Sudanese chef. The aim of this class is to provide cheap and healthy recipes that everyone can mimic at home – in practice, they also act as a cultural exchange between the Sudanese, Somalian, Yemeni and Jordanian people who go to the Downtown center. A kind of cultural ‘melting pot’ (excuse the pun!). On this day, we cooked a Sudanese kebab which had everyone’s mouths watering as they waited for it to cook!
That same day, there’s also a magic show at summer camp. Children and parents alike crowd into the room to be amazed and, okay, a little bit baffled, by an array of tricks that seem to have no logical answer… Favorite tricks included a disappearing card, a seemingly bottomless bag that, although looking empty, contained 3 boxes, and a dog puppet who could somehow tie handkerchiefs together… The only logical answer is that Jamie was really a magician!
As the day ends, people slowly begin to leave: kids scuffle together, searching for their shoes, and having a last run-around whilst the adults say their goodbyes. After a quick clean-up, the door is locked by the friendly doorman, Zaied Abu. Incidentally, he is also the resident calligrapher, responsible for the CRP sign that greets you as you enter. True to the sign, Zaied says he hopes everyone can leave with a smile on their face.
The Downtown centre opened in the fall of 2018 (October), serving refugees from Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia. Due to the influx of Syrian refugees to Jordan in past years, other displaced communities were being overlooked. There was unequal access to aid and resources offered by humanitarian organizations. Since Hashemi Shamali is in East Amman and the taxi fare is expensive for Somali, Sudanese and Yemeni refugees, CRP decided to open a community space in central Amman. Here these communities can access the food-voucher distribution program and muraja’at (drop-in sessions), which include a CVT Awareness session from CVT Jordan, and a Gender Based Violence class.
The building is very kindly provided by a benefactor, rent-free for three years, and this has enabled CRP to expand and better serve central Amman’s refugee community.