GESALO Star!up of the Month: Neverland at Ennessi Farm
Neverland is a wonderful place to stimulate children's curiosity. Located at the Ennessi Farm kids in Diriyah/Riyadh, Neverland offers activities and playful learning experiences for young children and their parents. Kids build up their motor skills, engage in parallel play and arts and craft classes! The Ennessi Farum is part of a UNESCO world heritage site with its ancient wells throughout the farm. Neverland aims to give families a place to build bonds and create community, to integrating a peace of mind for parents while engaging children in imaginative experiences and play.
“Second star to the right and straight on 'til morning. ” ― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
How We Came to Be
Before having children of my own I had no interest in kids. I was young, career oriented, and wanted to do something that left an impact in people's lives which is why I had committed to teaching at a local university. I knew eventually I would want children, but I think it was more of a social pressure than a personal desire. I viewed children as complete chaos...that is, until I had a couple of my own.
I was 27, and almost none of my friends had kids yet. Everyone was still focused on their career, partying or making plans for Yacht Week, but now I was a mom and let's face it, life changes with motherhood. Your flexibility and freedom are not what they once were. And although I had felt the significant changes of this new chapter in my life, I also knew that I was the same youthful fun person who didn't want to change who I was. So, one day, as I was lying in bed, with my two little bundles of joy surrounding me, I was overwhelmed by the glory of motherhood. And then, as quickly as the rush of joy came, I was overcome by a sense of anguish that led to a melted down spiraling into a postpartum existential crisis.
Logically, I knew I was not the only woman in the world to go through this turmoil yet emotionally I felt incredibly alone and through my river of tears I recalled two cathartic moments in my life. And there it was that decided I would shift gears to something that meant more to me.
The first transformative moment I had was one day after work when I came home to nurse my newborn. I looked at him so fragile so needy and suddenly realized the power and significance of motherhood. This little creature needed me for absolutely everything and what he would become came down to the life I created for him; from nurturing him from my own body to create an environment that will encourage him to be the man he will one day become.
The paradox between how society views women and what motherhood really means was brought to light. Women with children are made to feel so powerless and dependent; yet feeling like a sole source of life was so powerful that the contradiction was hard to live by.
This lead to the second cathartic moment in my life where I was lying on a beach in Puerto Rico watching my kids playing around with sticks, stones, and sand all the while processing the existential crisis of what I needed to do with my life and what career changes I needed to make while I decided to embrace my new found passion in motherhood. So, as the song Lost Boys by Ruth B played, I decided that I would create a real life neverland where kids can dive into their imaginations but where adults would enjoy being in touch with their inner child too. A place that caters to adults as adults and children as children without having to sacrifice for each other. And there in understanding my paradox, I discovered my personal mission to eliminate the image of “the needy mother” to becoming an image of “feminine influence and power”.
Where we are now
I had a friend that lied to her son by saying that Chuck E Cheese had closed because she couldn't handle going there anymore. It was a sacrifice to your sanity as an adult to take your children to play indoors. As I researched the market, I discovered everything was catered to older kids with huge spaces, lots of noise, chaos and the places were simply ugly. From there I started to conceptualize a place that parents wanted to go to and what it would have. So, the process began. I was a mom and a teacher, but I knew absolutely nothing about starting a business, yet I knew what I wanted for myself and other moms. It was a long journey from concept to research and planning and I wasn't sure how to start. So, I began volunteering with a business group and taking on part time jobs that would enhance my experience outside of the industry I was already in. Through networking in my new circles and one of the jobs I had landed, an incredible opportunity came my way.
Currently, Neverland is working with Ennessi Farm in Diriyah. And, although it has been a slow start due to the heat, we have been able to create some beautiful experiences. From ‘Donuts with Dads’ to family fun days, we aim to give families a place to build bonds and create community. It’s a place perfect to integrating a peace of mind for parents while engaging children in imaginative experiences and play.
The farm itself is an amazing venue. In addition to the tastefully decorated indoor activity space, it has a massive outdoor capacity that's great for kids to run around and get dirty in nature yet has a cozy organic farm that produces seasonal vegetables and herbs. It’s a wonderful place to stimulate children's curiosity as to the origins of the food they eat, the bugs that they find along the way, and the physical activity they engage in while in a playful atmosphere. And, although the space outdoors is vast, its distribution creates a sense of intimacy and coziness. It is also very unique as it is part of a UNESCO world heritage site with its ancient wells throughout the farm. While kids are having fun in a healthy amount of chaos, there is still a sense of peace and beauty at a historical site that kids get to embrace firsthand. With outdoor seating and a playground, it’s a great escape just outside of the city hustle and bustle for parents to unwind and kids to be free.
The activities and experiences we create tend to be geared towards younger children and family building. Activities like sensory play are great for little ones to build motor skills, engage in parallel play and have fun making a mess without their parents going crazy that the furniture is ruined! We also have arts and craft classes where children get to learn about an artist and their impact on the art scene with a chance to recreate these styles of art themselves. As part of a family fun day we were able to offer speed networking to professionals while their children were engaged in building activities. These simultaneous activities give parents and children a break from each other but still enough space for them to come together and still have fun together. Each activity or event we create also includes time for kids to run around and be free while adults get to sit and relax amongst the view.
Where we hope to grow
Although Neverland is currently popped up at the farm and we have the rare opportunity to embrace nature, history, and organic food all in one space, we are hoping to one day open a commercial space in the heart of Riyadh. Due to the inconsistent weather conditions, we want an indoor play facility that is catered towards younger children for imaginative play that people can access year around and through-out the entire day. A place that brings natural elements even indoors. And, as caffeine is the essential soul of parental survival, this place will also serve specialty coffee and healthy food options that are geared towards a younger palette. Kids come to play, adults come to lounge, and everyone eats. It’s a win-win all around.
With time we would like to grow and have smaller hubs throughout town where people can enjoy the same experiences close to home so they can drop in, have a great cup of coffee, and build a sense of community in a place they want to visit, not have to visit. A place they can visit regularly without the guilt of dragging kids to places that have nothing for them or having to sacrifice their own sanity so kids can play. Seeing as we strive to build a community of likeminded parents, location is essential for building relationships with people who live in the same areas or have the same interests. We aim to build an engaged community that believes in growth and connection, the community of vision 2030, where families are active and participating members of society and build each other up to be true leaders. A community that will build the future tribe of tomorrow.
Follow Neverland on Instagram: Nevernland_sa
For more information kindly contact: Jamila ElDajani