Research has proven that the seemingly simple act of playing improves brain function, stimulates the mind and boost creativity. Play helps develop and improve social skills and can heal emotional wounds. And yet, when I think back to my own days of playing - especially at primary school level - it is the laughter and the carefree freedom that I remember most.
In January, while delivering a massive stationery donation at Fisantekraal Primary, we could not help but notice that this new school had a bare playground with only one jungle gym in the area where the grade 1, 2 and 3’s play. Over 300 children to one jungle gym, for children who have little to no access to swings and play frames at home?!
We were immediately inspired to improve this. Our initial brainstorming session yielded big plans for the playground. So big, that we felt a little overwhelmed with this new endeavour. Would it ever actually happen? Were we being too enthusiastic?
If we’ve learned one thing these past months, it’s that you shouldn’t make your dreams smaller than they actually are. Simply dream long term! In the fabulous chick flick, Under the Tuscan Sun(don’t deny that you’ve watched and loved it!), the heroine learns about a section of train track that was built in the Alps between Austria and Italy, even though the people knew very well that no train existed that could make the treacherous journey. They built it anyway, because they had faith that “one day, the train would come”…
We decided to stick with our original design for the playground - trees galore, interactive play areas, structures to provide much needed shade, water tanks, solar panels, a couple of bee hives (to raise funds and create awareness), artificial lawn, seating, garden greenery, grey water systems, an outdoor teacher’s patio, a large food garden (to provide for the school’s kitchen)…
We have dubbed our playground, “The Garden of Faith”. We trust that one day, the train will come.
Of course, it took a lot of people to build those tracks, and we certainly have received amazing support so far!
We have already planted sixty (yes, sixty!) trees, thanks to an amazing donor that wishes to remain anonymous. Jacques Gelderblom from Living Gardens SA, offered his fantastic team, time and expertise without hesitation, to plant this vast number of trees. Stanler Farms donated and delivered much needed compost.
Riaan Spangenberg, from Durbanville Children's Home, shared their blessings by passing along two second hand jungle gyms. Pieter Smit from De Smit Ekslusiewe Struktiere sent James and his team to cleverly deconstructed these play frames so that we could spread various carefully checked sections throughout the playground. This was a big hit with the kids - there were literally squeals of excitement!
We then had a lovely level platform built (thank you, Witness, for your expertise!) using second hand pavers (we love to upcycle!). This will hopefully get shade in the future so that it functions as a cool play area as well as an outdoor space suitable for teaching during the scorching summer.
As we speak, our team is building pallet wood planter boxes for the soon-to-be food garden. We’d like to get this operational as soon as possible, knowing the dire need for nutritious sustenance for developing minds.
We hope to soon be able to install water tanks, so that the grounds manager can easily water all this new greenery. We’re also eager to launch an anti-littering campaign, with the addition of fun, colourful trash bins.
We would love for the school to be a safe haven where there is laughter and joy, as well as learning and development, all in surroundings that are beautiful, interactive and fun. With the help and support of the dedicated staff, inspirational headmistress and our incredible donors, we have faith that this dream will become a reality.
The train will come!
Want to get involved? Our train-track-building wish list includes:
Above: Before and after.
Witness, our master builder, hard at work.
The new level platform all done! Next, we'd like to add a roof to provide some much needed space. How great would it be if the teachers could teach outdoors next summer?!
Before and after. Adding a second long line of trees next to the fence made an incredible difference. The playground immediately just looked greener!
By deconstructing the large donated play frames, we were able to scatter a few of these cute platforms all around the playground.
Clearly, it was a huge hit! The kids clambered all over them the moment they saw them.
Above: Before and after. What a difference a few trees and a fabulous play frame made to this bare space!
Juanita tests out the fun little balance beam, while two curious neighbourhood kids watch from the other side of the fence.
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