Makani ‘A lighthouse that illuminates my whole world’

A safe space for girls to play football

Marco Carraro and AbdelMajid El-Noaimi
Zain Al’sham, 12, (centre in red) and Rahaf, 12, (right in purple) in action during the Makani Centre Girls Football tournament Final.
27 December 2021

“It’s so much better here than on the street,” says Zain Al’Sham, as she starts her keep-ups routine. “Here we have a coach who teaches us about the rules, equipment, nice pitches and, most importantly, it is safer for us”.

Zain Al’Shaim and Rahaf, both 12 years, left Syria at such a young age that neither of them remembers anything about their home country or the journey to Jordan.  Despite many challenges, they remain determined to make new lives for themselves and have developed a real passion for both learning and football.

“I started off by playing on the street,” says Zain Al’Shaim. “Every time I played, I felt so happy and it led me to start playing at the Makani centre”.

Playing football on the streets can expose girls to harassment, bullying and abuse.

Generous support from KFW and BMZ has provided children with a safe space to learn, develop and thrive.  UNICEF-supported Makani centres not only provides children with the opportunity to develop their key skills with extra Maths, Arabic and English classes but also with extracurricular activities such as sport and art.

Zain Al’Shaim and Rahaf both participated in the final of a football tournament held at a Makani centre in Za’atari Refugee Camp.

Zain Al’sham, 12, poses with her runners-up  medal and trophy after competing in the football  tournament at a Makani centre.

“Today was very exciting for me, I scored a goal and my team (the purple team) won 2-1!”, exclaims Rahaf.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Makani centres across the country were closed to prevent the spread of the virus, while services continued remotely. Children were unable to meet up with their friends and missed out on the learning, protection and socialization of being physically in a classroom.

“The main reason we come to this Makani centre is to see people,” says Zain Al’Shaim. “When the Makani centres shut due to COVID-19, we were stuck at home”.

To ensure that children and parents continued to be supported, Makani activities were conducted as distance-learning activities. Communication between UNICEF staff, facilitators, and beneficiaries was conducted via WhatsApp messaging, enabling facilitators to share relevant content and COVID-19 awareness messages, as well as lesson materials and other education resources, such as videos and factsheets for the children to continue their learning.

While these efforts helped Makani attendees to stay engaged with their classes and teachers, the closures took a psychological toll on children.

Rahaf, 12, poses with her winners medal and trophy following the Makani centre football tournament final.

“Football is the thing I love most in my life. So, when the Makani shut, I didn’t feel good at all,” explains Rahaf. “But the day they told me that the center will re-open, I couldn’t contain my excitement and I ran straight over to here.”

“It’s true” adds Zain Al’Shaim, “I was thrilled. In fact, it doesn’t matter that our team (the red team) lost today, to be able to just run around and play again has been so much fun.”.

Mental exercise is just as important as physical in Makani centres or as Zain Al’Shaim says “here we also train our brains.”. Learning Support Services in Makani help the girls to develop the core subjects taught in the camps’ schools, especially Maths, Arabic and English. While football is the girls’ passion, the main reason that they attend the Makani is to develop their futures.

“I love football, don’t get me wrong. But my real dream is to become an Astronaut” says Zain Al’Shaim. “I love Maths and I watch a lot of Sci-Fi movies about space travel.  This has developed like a seed of curiosity. I want to be able to see space and experience it.”

“With all of the extra support that Makani is giving me, hopefully I will reach my dream.”

Rahaf too realizes that education is an important step in her future. Her favourite subjects are Maths and computer studies, as she believes it’s extremely important to be up to date with technology as it is the future.  She still holds on tightly to her biggest hope.

“My dream is to become a footballer. My coach is pushing me to be a better footballer every day,” says Rahaf.

“I think that the Makani center is bringing me closer to achieving my dream. In fact, the Makani center is like a lighthouse that illuminates my whole world.”


Thanks to the generous commitment of KFW and BMZ, UNICEF Jordan can continue to provide girls with safe spaces to learn, develop and thrive