Making Dreams out of Cardboard

Makani Centres continue to provide young people in Jordan with the tools to innovate and create

Basel Al-Smadi
Abdullah, 14, sits behind the toys he made out of cardboard for his brother, at the local Makani centre in Amman. ©Al-Smadi/UNICEF 2020
14 January 2021

14-year-old Abdullah started attending the local Makani centre in October 2020 Abdullah is currently enrolled in life skills training and the social innovation lab, which he attends 3 times a week. Abdullah’s mother also participates in several initiatives in the centre and enrolled him so he could benefit from the programme’s integrated services.

“I used to spend all my free time playing outside in the street and I would get bored. I’m happy now because I’m doing something useful in my free time,” said Abdullah.

Four years ago, Abdullah’s older brother, Adnan, started suffering from epileptic seizures, which put him in a coma. Only 1 year younger, Abdullah was deeply affected by his brother's health condition.

“Once my brother came out of his coma, my parents didn’t allow him to hold a smartphone, so I decided to create something that he can play with. I started watching online videos to learn how to make toys from simple material, and that’s when I became passionate about creating cardboard models.”


Once Abdullah’s life skills facilitator learned of his unique hobby, she encouraged him to pursue it further and improve on the designs he was creating, helping him turn his idea into an initiative, for which they were able to secure small-scale funding for extra materials and paint.

“My favourite class at the centre is life skills training. I enjoy using my imagination, and it helps me create different ideas, which I turn into drawings and hang on the wall, and then we compete for the best idea.”

Abdullah with his camera model, made with cardboard.

The Makani model features several services offered through a holistic, community-based approach, including learning support services, child protection, and life skills training (including innovation labs), which benefit all vulnerable children, regardless of their nationality or status.

“Abdhullah is always the last one to leave the centre, and if he could stay there all day, he would! We provide him with supplies to encourage him to continue and to experiment with different material,” said Manal, Abdullah’s facilitator and child protection specialist at the Makani centre.

“Ever since school switched to online learning, the most exciting part of my day has been going to Makani and attending classes. When I grow up, I want to become a designer and create real products,” said Abdullah, who’s now finishing ninth grade.

In 2020, through the action co-funded by the EU to 11 Makani centres in host communities, UNICEF and its partners have provided an integrated package of services to over 19,000 vulnerable beneficiaries in host communities. 

Thanks to generous support from the European Union MADAD Trust Fund, UNICEF continues to reach the most vulnerable boys and girls in Jordan with an integrated package of social protection services, including the Makani programme.