New Jordan startup looking to harness creativity of youth

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Youngsters need skills, and particularly in today’s job market they need skills that are going to set them apart from the thousands of others competing for work.

To think creatively and use those skills for innovation is a must. In the MENA region, the ability to do this wasn’t often highly regarded, however, many companies in Jordan, within the private sector, and the field of development, are recognizing the importance of young people’s creativity in order to reach modern solutions.

According to a UNESCO report, “promoting creativity for and among youth and harnessing young people’s creative potential and energy therefore needs to be a priority in finding creative solutions to today’s challenges.”

Channeling the creativity

This is where the founders of a new startup called Holm come in.

Abdullah Abu Fannas, Ahmad M. Massad, and Faisal Zaid Al Azzeh developed Holm, which means ‘dreams’ in Arabic, in order to stimulate creative thinking among Jordanian youth. Their aim is to connect with children and youngsters in traditionally marginalized neighborhoods, empowering them to use their own creativity to discover their life dreams.

Massad says: “Children often only think about joining the army or becoming a policeman and obtaining a big salary. They don’t recognize their own knowledge and artistic talents. Our goal is to aid youth in this process of self discovery.”

Research has found that outlets for creativity, initiated at a young age, have the potential to transform the labor market by instilling values of critical thinking, social awareness, and personal innovation. Providing youth with the opportunity to use non-traditional tools such as theatre and the arts can strengthen their self-identity and confidence. It gives them the chance to understand their talents and discover early on how they may want to use them in the workplace.

Founders Ahmad M. Massad, Abdullah Abu Fannas, and Faisal Zaid Al Azzeh.

Theater and other artistic elements such as playback theater, puppetry, painting, drawing, singing, and acting, are used by Holm to create social awareness. According to the founders, using theater, for example, can help children develop solutions internally, as well as issues their local community may be facing. Ideally, family members too, will be engaged in the creative process by watching performances and listening to their children’s discoveries, hopefully initiating dialogue between the youth and their parents.

Al Azzeh states, “We want children to ask questions about their environment and traditions, why, where, how, when, and express these through the arts in order to reveal their own knowledge.”

Getting started

Over the past year, Holm’s team has been researching about the access to creative learning in different communities throughout Jordan, as well as the challenges those places are facing.

They have also been leading various creative-learning workshops in Amman and refugee camps in Northern Jordan. In June, they will launch their first set of creative camps, each lasting about a week, through different schools in Amman.

Facilitating these camps out of their own funding they will be marketing organization through social media and establishing more community partnerships. These partnerships will hopefully lead to further financial support so they can expand their creative work.

“We don’t want to hold a workshop or camp for a few hours or for a few weeks, take a picture, and leave. We want to stay connected with all communities we work with,” says Al Azzeh.

Keeping creativity alive

Massad stressed that sometimes this can be lost after childhood: “When we are young, we are all artists. But when we grow up we stop.”

Holm’s work will allow the youngsters to discover ways in which creativity can always be a part of their lives socially, academically, and financially. Understanding these skills early on will not only benefit them in the workplace, but also improve their communities.

The camps this summer will be based on a book Holm has developed. ‘My Little World’ is a book of blank pages with headings on each page, such as  “Where I want to go,” “What makes me different from others,” and “Traditional stories I’ve heard.”

There are no rules or guidelines as to what the children should draw or write on each page, they just have to illustrate various aspects of their lives.

Each day of the camp will focus on a different page or theme, and the book will be used as a mechanism for children to express themselves creatively. Group discussion facilitated by Holm’s leaders and volunteers will stimulate critical thinking and collaborative learning.

Cover of 'My Little World' illustrated by Massad.

Who are Holm?

With backgrounds in the arts and NGO sector the three founders have been friends for years, but worked together for the first time at Ruwwad: The Arab Foundation for Sustainable Development.

While the focus of Holm is currently Jordan they do have plans to expand throughout the MENA, eventually establishing a global network. An international exchange program will be developed and will look to create intercultural dialogue, something they see as critical for youth development.

Through providing non-traditional and creative opportunities youngsters have the potential to strengthen the Jordanian economy and in turn, develop a stronger MENA region. As Massad concludes: “It is our mission to have Holm be known globally as the top resource for creative building and opportunity for youth who are competing in modern society.”

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