Arrivals: A girl with a plan

Elvia Fisher’s idea of opening a community center in the heart of Tel Aviv has blossomed into reality.

October 18, 2012 13:31
4 minute read.
Elvia Fisher.

Elvia Fisher 521. (photo credit: A girl with a plan.)

Elvia Fisher spent her first few years in Israel as a nanny, working for English-speaking families and returning Israelis who wanted to keep up their children’s English.

“I loved the work, but I realized then how hard it was to be a nanny in Tel Aviv, as there were no resources, no place to take the kids for them to play and be with others of their age,” she says.

She solved the problem herself by establishing CityKids, an all-in-one educationand play-space with activities for all age groups from newborn up to age 13. Today, CityKids, which she founded in December 2010, is a hive of activity, offering everything from infant massage to art, music, English language classes and a host of other activities to amuse and preoccupy Tel Aviv’s youngsters. She employs five highly qualified teachers and assistants with another five on a freelance basis.

With her huge smile and infectious enthusiasm for everything she does, she is a 26- year-old entrepreneur who took a chance, invested a great deal of time and money – and succeeded beyond her wildest dreams.

“I had to do it,” she says with a grin. “I wanted it up and running before my own children come along.”

She had visited Israel from her home in Connecticut a few times and came on a Birthright trip in 2006. The next year, after completing a degree in psychology and business studies, she set off on a round-theworld backpacking trip for which Israel was going to be the first stop.

“I had no plans – I was just going to let life lead me where it would,” she recalls. She had the chance to join a cheap subsidized trip that involved volunteering to help rebuild bomb shelters for two weeks in Kiryat Shmona. Still with no intention of staying, when the two weeks were up, she decided to go and spend some time sitting on the beach in Tel Aviv.

“I stayed for the New Year and all the festivals and I decided that as I was already here, I’d stay and learn Hebrew,” she says.

The money that had been meant to support her world travels for a year was becoming seriously depleted. Getting a job seemed the obvious route and she drew on her experience working through high school and college as a nanny.

Two jobs later and now with a serious Israeli boyfriend, she began to mull over the idea of a opening community center in the heart of Tel Aviv where nannies or mothers could bring children during the day.

During a visit back to the States to see her parents and two brothers, the idea began to evolve in her mind and she began serious research into the question of what a daycare center should offer.

“I traveled around the US and I researched what parents are looking for and what modern psychology is saying about what kids need at this age,” she says. “I also looked into brand names of all kinds of puzzles and games, and I built up a library of 1,500 English children’s books.”

A shipment of thousands of games and puzzles followed with art supplies and highquality washable paint, among other things.

Then it was time to come back to Israel and set her plan in motion.

The first step was a series of focus groups in the Tel Aviv Anglo community to establish exactly what parents were looking for. For many it was a need to meet with other English- speakers as well as for the center to provide games and toys to amuse their children.

Within a few weeks, Fisher had found the ideal premises in the heart of Tel Aviv not far from Rabin Square.

“I went to a real estate agent and it was only the second place I saw,” she says. Her explanation for the almost instant success in finding a place – “karma.”

Some renovations followed – in a previous incarnation the place had been an architect’s office – and after she had invested a large amount of her own money plus some assistance from the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, the place had new wooden floors and an extra classroom and she was in business.

She recruited her staff initially through announcements on Janglo (an online community for English-speakers) and through personal connections and accumulated an impressive list of helpers and teachers, many of them new immigrants like herself with teaching qualifications – some in art, some in music and one a qualified nurse.

Activities are on offer for every age group and even before birth with the popular childbirth preparation course run by a friend who is a qualified labor and delivery nurse from New York. Even at the age of three weeks, a baby can join in the infant massage class; at three months take a music-and-movement class and at six months do baby yoga.

“Over a thousand families utilize our services,” says Fisher proudly. “Besides the Anglos, we have a huge French population, Russians, Indians who come here for the diamond trade and plenty of sports and other celebrities who use our facility.”

Parents seem to appreciate the center as much as their children do; Friendships are forged and people can come to unload their frustrations as much as to bring their children to be entertained.

The future looks bright – and Fisher plans to expand the center and keep it thriving so eventually she will be able to send her own children there.

“That’s why I built it in the first place,” she says.

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