July 11, 2011 Kerala Taylor

Inspiration Monday: Building a playground in Haiti

When we announced that we were going to build a playground in the Gulf shortly after Hurricane Katrina, not everyone was happy about it. With so much devastation, some believed that a playground was the last thing people needed. Why invest time, money, and sweat into something so “superfluous” when residents were still struggling to get basic necessities, like shelter, food, and water?

Some may ask the same question of Julie Rearick, a representative from the playground equipment manufacturer Playworld Systems (a KaBOOM! partner). She recently traveled to Haiti with a group from Lifechurch in Allentown, Pa., a Playful City USA, to help build a playground at a tent city in Carrefour. Currently, there are more than 800,000 homeless people living in tents in Port au Prince and Carrefour.

We’re sure Julie and the Lifechurch volunteers would agree with us that a playground is not superfluous—that in fact, it is essential to rebuilding a community, as it provides a communal space to gather, socialize, and play. In the Playworld Systems blog, Julie (pictured below at left) related her inspiring journey, day by day. Here, we share some highlights: 

  
Photos by Noel Sanabria.

Day 1:
When we pulled off the street into the tent city, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. "Do people really live like this?" There are children everywhere and it hits me; this is why I am here! PR [Pastor Randy from Lifechurch] takes me to the place where the playground will go and I envision the children all over it. And I think to myself it's going to be okay. [Read full post.]

Day 3
We mixed and poured concrete assembly-style like my good friends at KaBOOM! With the help of 20 or more men from the tent community, we worked hard all day in 100 plus degree heat. Since water must be ordered and delivered we worked many hours with no water to drink. Dr. Berger from Lifechurch who runs the clinic, said the children are lucky to have one or two cups of water per day. He also said when they register in his clinic many report they only eat every other day. Such living conditions are so difficult for someone like me to imagine. [Read full post.]

Day 4:
One 10-year-old boy named Mardoche became my favorite. He wanted to work to earn money for his mother and four siblings, but our rule was to have no children on the site. He stood nearby for two days and waved every time I looked at him. Today he introduced me to his mother, Leonne and she invited me to their tent. I took an interpreter with me so I could ask questions. Her husband died from an infection before the earthquake and she was a single mother with no means to feed her children. Before the earthquake, her children had attended a good school. This explained Mardoche's good manners and ability to speak some English. I gave them all the food I had for the day, promising more the next. [Read full post.]

Day 5:
The mayor of Carrefour spoke some words of thanks and cut the ribbon. Then children ran and screamed with delight. There are no words to express my emotions. Mardoche was holding my hand and saw my tears. When I pulled out my tissues, he took them and said, "me" and then took them and wiped my face. It was a moment in my life I will never forget! [Read full post.]

Learn more about building playgrounds in disaster zones in the Huffington Post.

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