As the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches, our CEO Darell Hammond reflects on Operation Playground, an effort we at KaBOOM! undertook to build 100 playgrounds in devastated Gulf communities. This August, we will build our 135th and 136th playgrounds in the Gulf since the storms.
In his Huffington Post piece, Lessons from the Gulf: Why Playgrounds Should Be a Priority in Disaster Zones, Darell says of our first post-Katrina playground build in Bay St. Louis, Miss.:
Disaster has the potential to bring people together, but if those people lack the tools and resources to improve their situation, it can have the opposite effect. As isolation and distrust set in, communities can become fragmented and broken down.
We wanted to help reverse this maddening downward spiral by actively involving Bay St. Louis residents in a tangible process of construction. But why start with a playground?
It's a good question. In fact, KaBOOM! attracted some criticism by focusing on playgrounds rather than addressing more pressing needs, like food and shelter. Darell goes on to explain:
One of the first steps toward rebuilding a community is providing the community with a place to gather, socialize, and play. Clearly, rebuilding houses in Bay St. Louis was also of eminent importance, but while a house benefits one family, a playground provides immediate benefits to everyone. Most importantly, it benefits the children... Building a playground wasn't just about designing and constructing a play structure; it was also about restoring a sense of normalcy and safety for the children.
Read the full post here.