Category Archives: Empower Playground Inc.

Hearts of Play

In both religious and secular celebrations, giving, goodwill and peace are Christmas mainstays. For kids it’s an incredible time, a wondrous dance of merry magic dream makers feverishly anticipating the arrival of Père Nöel, Sinterklaas, or Old Saint Nick. The air is infused with hope, friendship and play.

Beyond our own homes and communities, out there in the wider world, there are those who on a daily basis act with hearts of play. My thoughts gravitate to these Pax Ludo envoys at this time of year because their mission – helping kids to explore and experience the joys of play – is so closely aligned with Santa’s selfless journey of giving.

If you are looking for a good cause to embrace, consider for a moment one of these fine organizations in Hearts of Play (click through for version with full notes).

Enjoy this time for reflection, giving thanks, and family.

NEWSFLASH, this just in – PlayGroundology’s first Haiku Deck, The Book of Play has received a ‘hai 5’ and is in the running for best Haiku Deck in the Pure Wow category. Check it out, VOTE for PLAY and share it with the hashtag #hdbestof2013.

Hats off to Haiku Deck who make storytelling a breeze. Cheers

Giving the Gift of Play

Gift of Play

Any time of the year is a good time for giving. But if this season speaks to you in a special way, consider giving the gift of play.

There are organizations around the world that help make play possible for kids. Here are a few whose work is both compelling and inspiring.

Northern Starfish (Canada)

In Canada, a barely into his teens Wes Prankard is working hard to make a difference. Northern Starfish, an organization he created, is working with First Nations communities across the country. His first engagement involved raising funds to build a playground in Attawapsikat, in northern Ontario. Three years later, playgrounds continue to be an important focus of the organization’s work as he explains here to the Assembly of First Nations.

Recently, Wes carted over 1,000,000,000 pennies he raised to a bank in his hometown as part of a campaign to the build 20 playgrounds across the Canada’s north. Click here if you would like to give Northern Starfish a hand.

Playground Builders (Canada)

From his base in British Columbia, Keith Reynolds and Playground Builders have built 116 playgrounds since 2007 in The Palestinian Territories, Afghanistan and other war-torn areas of the world. Keith gives a first hand account of the organization’s work in this Canadian Broadcasting Corporation national news interview.

Playground Builders is a registered charitable organization in Canada. The organization has both a Canadian and US foundation. Click through here if you are interested in supporting their work.

Playground IDEAS (Australia)

Marcus Veerman had an idea about kids, play and community empowerment. From his base in Australia, Playground IDEAS has worked and played with communities and kids throughout Asia, Africa and South America using indigenous and recycled materials to create colourful engaging playspaces. Just watch here and you’ll see what I mean.

Click here if you want to help Playground IDEAS build a “world of intelligent, happy, resilient children prepared to take on the complex challenges of the future”.

Empower Playgrounds (USA and Ghana)

Ben Markham and his team at Empower Playgrounds tag their work as lighting the world through recess. Markham is a retired ExxonMobil executive now bringing his talents to bear in Ghana, West Africa. Kids at play becomes energy that lights homes and schools.

Click through here for information on how to support the work of Empower Playgrounds.

East African Playgrounds (UK and Uganda)

East African Playgrounds was founded by two Leeds University students, Tom Gill and Carla Powell, in 2009. Volunteers have built playgrounds primarily in Uganda and Kenya. Here is the story of one of their early builds.

As far I have been able to determine, they are the only playground group who have had someone pledge to fundraise for them by doing handstands 365 days of the year. Julie Dumont has been on a handstandathon this year in a variety of venues. You can see some of them here in this article from The Telegraph.

Click through here for more on helping to support the work of East African Playgrounds.

This is just a small sample of of people and organizations doing good work in support of play. In communities throughout the world there are local activities and builds taking place that frequently are in need of financial or volunteer support. Keep your eyes open for opportunities. A newish kid on the block is crowdfunding as this item from BBC News London explores.

Remember anytime is a good time to give the gift of play. Merry Christmas from Halifax, Canada.

Round and Round, Up and Down Brightens Up Africa

Play is power. It’s the power to generate electricity, the power to pump water. The right designs can make play double up as work for up and down, see-sawers and spinny spin roundabouters.

Empower Playgrounds Inc.

In Ghana West Africa, Empower Playgrounds are as they say, ‘lighting the world with recess’. All the tireless playground energy is captured to burn bright as sun falls into night.

For the kids it is a whirl of fun and laughter. See for yourself.

This is exactly what Ben Markham, a retired Vice-President of Engineering, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering, had in mind when he started play to around with an idea that turned out to be very illuminating.

Find more about Ben, his team, Empower Playground Inc. and their partners here. I’m sure this transformative play for light would have received the Kwame Nkrumah and E.F Schumacher seals of approval…

PlayMade Energy

The Energee-Saw, pioneered by the UK’s Daniel Sheridan, was initially tested in Uganda in 2008. A revised design was tested in Malawi. This video shows PlayMade Energy’s Energee-Saw in action PlayMadeEnergy in the world’s least electrified continent.

Kids will be able to study longer as a direct result of their own hard play. It may take a village to raise a child but apparently it takes a child to light the way.


I was introduced to the PlayPump earlier this week and thought it was a marvelous piece of utilitarian fun. That’s sure what it looks like in this 2008 report from the National Geographic Society.

It turns out that an appropriate technology that took regions of Africa, aid organizations and foundations by storm wasn’t in fact the best fit, the most efficient, or least expensive solution to help promote and create water security.

There is some difference of opinion now as to the PlayPump’s efficiency and efficacy. Many financial supporters have backed away from the project and villagers have requested a return to the handpump.

PBS did a documentary on Frontline World in June 2010. It’s available for viewing here.

Harnessing kids’ energy through play is a great idea. Let’s hope it continues and benefits the kids who are providing the fun equity.

P.S. – thanks to Neil who got me thinking about writing this post.