By Mark C. White
Can the KaBOOM! community-build model be used around the globe to bring play opportunities to all children? A small group of Playmakers and I put the theory to the test in Poland.
Through the gracious generosity of KOMPAN, BigToys and extensive fundraising, we were able to not only complete one playground project, but two: one at a rural Polish orphanage (Dom Dziecka) and another at an elementary school in the city of Poznan. Dr. Melinda Bossenmeyer of Peaceful Playgrounds donated a complete set of recess hard surface play area stencils and a paint-striping machine, and I bought all the tools to bring with us with a $500 Home Depot gift card awarded to me last fall by KaBOOM!.
Day one. Upon arrival at Dom Dziecka "Droga" located in the small village of Goscieszyn Poland, we found two crates from KOMPAN delivered the previous week. After unloading and storing our luggage, we went immediately to work.
Day two. The first full day of the build went very quickly. The team divided informally into three separate groups to assemble the three pieces of equipment. The team dug all the holes except for those for the spring-loaded seesaw. We wanted to give the kids the opportunity to dig the holes and mix in the concrete for this piece of equipment; therefore ensuring ownership as well as a memorable experience.
Day three. The safety surfacing material was delivered. The kids were starting to arrive back from school, so we had an added resource of labor to move the safety surfacing and filled both "safe use zone" areas.
Day four. We headed for our next build site: King David School. The school rents a portion of a public middle school. The objective of this build was to promote trust and cooperation amongst the administration, the surrounding "block housing" neighborhood and the parents of the students who attend King David School. My Polish counterpart, Przemek, had every detail of the build process planned out on a spreadsheet for each day of the project. We had parent volunteers both days to help complete the project. It was great to see Poles and Americans working side by side. No language translation was necessary. The smiles and teamwork said it all! We were there for a common purpose….to build a playground for a school that had none.
Day five. The next morning we had an assembly with the children and staff of the school: the official celebration and grand opening of the new playground. The children presented us with a booklet they had made with playground artwork, including many thank you's. I presented KaBOOM! "I Am Play" Playmaker t-shirts to the principal and Przemek, to great cheers and applause from the children and staff.
Mark C. White, founder of Playgrounds of Peace, is the environmental/risk and safety manager for the Lee's Summit R-7 School District. He's been a Certified Playground Safety Inspector (NPSI) for eight years, is S.A.F.E. certified, and has served as a National Advisory Board member for the National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS).