Category Archives: Playground Builders

Hearts of Play Go Global

Well PlayGroundology readers where do we see ourselves on the naughty or nice scale as we enter the Christmas season? I know that I’ve had a few questionable behaviours over the course of the year that may be getting looked at askance by that red-suited, twinkly-eyed, cookie-snacking guy…

Hearts of Play ReduxPhoto source – Leland Francisco. License – (CC BY 2.0)

In the hopes of spreading some good cheer and making up for my transgressions, I’m dusting off and sharing an updated version of the Haiku deck, Hearts of Play, that I put together a couple of years ago

The act of freely giving time, money, or goods, is always a sure fire means of enhancing one’s niceness stock regardless of faith origins. I hope that the Hearts of Play Haiku deck will encourage readers to consider giving a gift in support of kids and play. Think of it as one love, one heart, one play….

Without further ado, five groups doing great work in communities around the world. Nota – none of the five groups are aware of this post.

Playground Ideas

Playground Ideas II PlaygroundIDEAS. Photo source – PlaygroundIDEAS

Playground Ideas is a not-for-profit organization that designs and builds play spaces for the world’s most disadvantaged children. They support communities to create play spaces where there are none. Their open source designs and collaborative approach empower communities to create public play opportunities that invites local engagement. Their passion for play has taken them to Africa, Asia, South and North America, New Guinea and beyond. Founder Marcus Veerman recently presented at TEDxMelbourne.


East Africa Playgrounds

East AfricaEast Africa Playgrounds. Photo source – East Africa Playgrounds

East African Playgrounds is a Registered Charity in England and Wales (1129244) that aims to change the lives of children across East Africa by developing children’s learning opportunities and environments. We work alongside local communities to build simulating and exciting playgrounds, run arts and games programs as well as developing long term employment and training opportunities for young people across East Africa.


Pop-Up Adventure Play

Pop UpPop-Up Adventure Play. Photo source – Pop-Up Adventure Play

Pop-Up Adventure Play imagines a time when all children have access to child-directed play in communities of supportive adults. Their work is grounded in a Pop-Up Adventure Playground model providing children of all ages and abilities with opportunities to recognize, explore, and express their natural play instincts… on their own terms. Pop-Up Adventure Play is a registered charity in the UK (#1148987). Since this deck was originally posted, this dynamic team has criss-crossed the USA, done a world tour and written a book


Playground Builders

Mak Play Not WarPlayground Builders. Photo source – Playground Builders

Playground Builders creates playgrounds for children in war-torn areas. There is often no safe place for children in these communities to play. Most have never experienced the joy of a swing or the thrill of a slide. We at Playground Builders are dedicated to building hope and peace through the gift of play. Playground Builders is a registered Canadian charity: #852810019RR0001.


Empower Playgrounds Inc.

Light up the NightEmpower Playgrounds Inc.. Photo source – empower playgrounds

Empower Playgrounds Inc. enhances educational opportunities for children in Ghanaian villages by providing renewable energy through electricity-generating playground equipment, smart LED lanterns and hands-on science kits. Empower Playgrounds is a nonprofit, tax-exempt registered 501(c)3 registered in the USA. In October of this year, the group released Lighting the Night: Mirabell’s Story available for viewing on Vimeo here.


While writing this post, I received the following from the Pop-Up Adventure Play crew, a little pre-Christmas serendipity.

Pop-up tweet

The original Hearts of Play Haiku deck can be found here. Happy giving from PlayGroundology….

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

Always Remember

The last century saw millions die far from their own countries in conflicts scaled to a global level. In the Commonwealth and other nations, we commemorate that first great war’s armistice each year. November 11 is a day we remember and honour those who never returned and those who came home changed for ever from war’s horrific toll.

1922445322_1cbc83b8aa_bPhoto credit – Maureen Flynn-Burhoe. License – (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

War can also exact a fierce price on kids. Fathers, brothers, uncles lost forever. Homes, villages, towns destroyed beyond recognition. And, in heart wrenching incidents children themselves are killed, maimed, orphaned or pressed into bearing arms.

In the early 1940s, kids throughout the UK were evacuated from urban areas because of the Luftwaffe’s sustained bombing raids. In Glasgow, 120,000 kids were evacuated in a three day period in September 1939.

My folks were then primary school age and lived in shipbuilding towns on the River Clyde on Scotland’s west coast – Greenock and Port Glasgow. In addition to the shipyards there were other industrial targets including foundries, munitions factories, a rope works, a sugar refinery and a distillery.

In May of 1941, the Luftwaffe carpeted their towns with bombs for two consecutive nights. The industrial targets were practically unscathed but there was large scale damage to civilian housing and hundreds of deaths. The Greenock Blitz spurred on the evacuation of kids along this stretch of the Clyde.

Greenock blitzCraigieknowes School Playground, Greenock, Scotland. Photo credit – Ruth Kelly.

My father remembers being taken by his parents along with his two brothers to an assembly point for evacuation. At that time, he was 7, or 8-years-old and the middle child. When the time for departure came, he was separated from his older and younger brothers who were sent off together. That day he left with a group of other kids from The Port and wound up in Dollar, Clackmannanshire home of Castle Campbell.

He adjusted to his brothers’ absence and a new found family of 40 or so kids who lived and went to school together under the same roof. He met an older boy in Dollar a wild spirit sparked with mischief, charm and adventure – a natural born leader. Alexis Smith was the lad’s name and he made a lasting impression on my dad.

One day the burning spark took a bunch of the kids up to the attic full of armour and other treasures to explore and clatter about. He and my dad reconnected years later when they both worked briefly in the same co-op grocers. Alexis subsequently emigrated to the US and died in combat wearing an American uniform. Always remember…

7699921664_7f943aca66_bCastle Campbell, Dollar, Scotland. Photo credit – Mr. Evil Cheese Scientist. License – (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Dad thinks he was at this 3 or 4 story estate for nearly a year. He remembers a summer and winter passing and occasional visits from my grandad. The boys and girls at this home for evacuees were looked after by women in blue uniforms wearing nurse like caps. They were warm and caring with their charges helping to comfort tears and homesickness away.

The large grounds had woods, a marvelous garden and a fountain with goldfish that my dad fell into on several occasions. The rural setting would have been a change from the more urban schoolboy life in The Port. He was very happy when my grandfather came to bring him home. He was the first of the three brothers to return and would have been glad to have his parents’ unwavering attention for a short interval.

My dad shared some of these memories when we spoke last night. He visited Dollar a couple of years ago on one of his annual trips ‘back home’. It was smaller than he remembered and a little worse for the wear some 70 years down the road. The fountain was still there but the goldfish were long gone.

He knew it must of been hard for his parents to make the choice about which of their sons they would separate from the other two. My father was never angry, or disappointed with them regarding this decision. He accepted it as his path, the one less traveled by, and carried on never looking back.

Alex, Dad&Beaumont

This is my dad and I looking pretty suave posing with the new ’66 Beaumont Acadian back when I was about 8-years-old. My lad Noah-David is just 8 now. I can’t imagine either Noah or I at that young age being taken away from the warmth of parents, family and home. But kids are resilient and the unimaginable can make them quietly extraordinary.

Don’t forget the fallen heroes, or the broken spirits but let’s always remember the children. Many kids from my dad’s generation were lucky enough to be removed from harm. In today’s world there are too many still suffering from the heartbreak and terror of war.

UNHCR, War Child International and a Canadian organization, Playground Builders are some of the groups hard at work to help kids who through no fault of their own find themselves in war zones. Check out the fine work that they do and give them a hand if you can.

Always remember…

I don’t know how we find truth in war but this poem by Wilfred Owen has spoken to me since I first read it more than 40 years ago – DULCE ET DECORUM EST

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.