Building in Tanzania

February 24th, 2017 | by Jason Mackenzie

IMG_4822The final week of my stay in Tanzania is dedicated to conducting our training and building the playground. The first day started late, about an hour and a half late, but I expected that. We had a group of roughly 22 teachers and hospital professionals who came together for the workshop, as well as Onerva the volunteer from Finland.

We began with introductions and then a small activity to help us understand that we are alike and that we are all capable of designing something. I then moved into a presentation of Play360 and the work we do as well as Asset Based Community Development (a pillar of Play360). Participants loved the concept of ABCD and came to realize how many resources and assets they have around them.

Just before lunch we broke into random groups and each group was given a large stack of playground schematics with the instructions of:

  1. Pick a piece, either from these manuals or your own creation
  2. Create a materials list for that piece
  3. Create a curriculum element for that piece or pick one that has been provided

Following lunch and a brief rain delay (we were working outside) each group was asked to present their project. The dynamic and collaboration in the room was beautiful. There were opportunities to provide support and suggestions. Everyone was engaged and participated in the exercise.

Team 1 presentation was led by a PE instructor from an elementary school. They basically invented a new game they called “Alert.” It involved 2 teams in which one is throwing a ball at the other in the middle of the court while the team in the middle is trying to move sticks from one tire to the other without getting hit. As the conversations were in Swahili, I understood little but the beauty is that they took the tools we presented and created a new game. The coach was so animated in his presentation, it was inspiring for everyone!

Team 2 presented a tire garden with the modification that each tire would have one number and one letter. There would only be 24 tires in the garden as there are only 24 letters in Swahili (no X or Q).

Team 3 presented an interactive map of Tanzania designed for anyone, but mostly for children with visual impairments. Onevra was in this group and she said it was beautiful to watch the collaboration unfold. The map will be 3 dimensional that includes water features for the lakes and ocean and of course, Kilimanjaro, the pride of Tanzania.

Team 4 is going to build a tire calculator and try to find ways to intermix sentences between the numbers so you can do math or sentence building. This is a brilliant idea in my opinion.

Finally team 5 is planning a special type of swing designed for children with hydrocephalus. It’s going to be more expensive to build, but we IMG_4779are all really excited to see what they come up with.

It was an incredible first day. I have never felt this level of successful collaboration in a working group. They took the ideas presented to them and ran. Is it Tanzanian culture? Is it the nature of the work? Is it that the
y have the freedom to choose their own project and take ownership?

The following days were dedicated to building. The group came motivated and everyone worked hard all day long. It’s easy to dig in the sand hear so building goes quickly. We hired a welder to build a swing frame as the group was concerned that a wooden one could not last in Tanzanian weather. I generally prefer not to hire out, bit I mostly prefer to follow the desires of the volunteer crew.

IMG_4785Coach and his team were working on the 3D map of Tanzania. He crouched over the concrete and began to trace the outline of the country. When asked if he wanted a map to reference, he said didn’t need it because it’s in his heart.

We finished the building early, but the group was eager to keep working through Friday, creating new pieces and painting murals. Worked for me! I’d keep them here for a month if I could. It is a true pleasure working with this crew. They are all so inventive, constantly thinking of a new piece or solution. Janet and Walter in particular are truly gifted when it comes to developing new ideas.

In the evenings, after we are done for the day, the local kids swing by to play on the new pieces. It’s fun to watch them.

The grand opening of the playground was really an exceptional event. We had about 45 people there including adults and children, disabled and abled. The volunteers demonstrated the playground pieces they built, then invited the children to play. These volunteers were like children themselves especially when playing the new game, “Alert”.

We finally finished our swing for the children with hydrocephalus. Some of them love it, others not so much. What’s nice is they have the option to swing now. It’s inclusive of their needs. It was definitely an emotional day for all.

I had one comment from Kiya Jk, the Chief Executive of C-Sema (a child advocacy group). He said “I didn’t think this was possible when you first told me about it so had to come see it for myself. Now I’m going to advocate for these playgrounds at all my schools.”

IMG_4901

IMG_4910

IMG_4915