Children on a slide, family hub, Irbid
HomeStoriesIrbid renovates a park into Jordan’s first Family Hub
HomeStoriesIrbid renovates a park into Jordan’s first Family Hub

Irbid renovates a park into Jordan’s first Family Hub

How a Family Hub has created a thriving child-friendly space that was formerly bare concrete.

Children on a slide, family hub, Irbid

Caregivers in Irbid, a city in northern Jordan, are enjoying taking their babies, toddlers and preschool-age children to a new Family Hub in Al-Ashrafeyeh Park. A disused library has been transformed into a space for activities, while an adjacent area in the park that was formerly bare concrete now features seating under shade sails for caregivers, and sensory play areas designed for children aged 0-5 to explore.

Irbid is the flagship Urban95 city in Jordan – in partnership with Majlisna (Civic Jordan), the first municipality, out of over a hundred in the country, to establish an Early Childhood Development unit within the municipal administration. Led by the Libraries Department and the Parks and Recreation Department, the unit is working with other departments to identify how they can contribute to improving life in Irbid for its youngest residents.

The idea for the Family Hub emerged from the Mayor’s participation, along with key municipal staff, in a study tour of Copenhagen organised by the Van Leer Foundation. The city’s leaders further developed their early childhood strategy through the Urban95 Academy, an intensive course run by the London School of Economics.

Before the intervention, observations indicated that no young children were using Al-Ashrafeyeh Park. The project team conducted research with caregivers to ask why. They identified the main issues holding them back was the lack of an area suitable for young children to play, lack of suitable seating, litter, and concerns about their safety and security in the park, such as lack of lighting at night-time and fear of harassment from other park users.

Now that the Family Hub has created a more welcoming and attractive focal point for caregivers, observations indicate that 40% of park visitors are aged 0 to 5. Caregivers can sign up to a WhatsApp group to be notified about activities such as storytelling sessions. Local kindergartens and schools are engaging with activities at the Family Hub, and 2023 saw the first ever summer camp for children held in the park.

Al-Ashrafeyeh has become a thriving child-friendly space, and a lighthouse to inspire similar transformation in other parks in Irbid, as well as among other mayors and municipalities across Jordan and the wider region – indeed, over the next 12 months, Irbid is expanding renovations to two additional parks and creating three more Family Hubs.

Van Leer Foundation team and partners at Family Hub, Irbid, Jordan
Site visit to the Family Hub rehabilitation in Al-Barha park, Irbid