Playground equipment recycled to bring joy to children across the world

Running to the playground at recess is a privilege most Calgary children enjoy and often take for granted.

For many children across the world, however, a playground is unheard of and some kids may not know how to play on one.

The Emmanuel Foundation‘s Play it Forward initiative is committed to recycling used playground equipment from Calgary communities and sending it to developing countries.

Community Development Consulting Recreation (CDC) builds playgrounds in Calgary and also partners with the Emmanuel Foundation to help take down, paint and store used equipment.

“After seeing so many used playgrounds go into the landfill, we decided that something useful should be done with this equipment,” said Brent Davies, engineer for CDC Recreation.

Davies is also part of a group of volunteers currently in Mozambique, installing used playground equipment to improve the lives of children in need.

“It’s just fun to see kids who have never had a playground to go play on it. It’s just a different experience,” Davies said. “It’s so amazing to see the excitement in their faces, and some of them need to learn how to use a slide because they have never seen one before.”

Davies said most of the playground equipment such as slides and swings can be recycled, but any wooden structures cannot be re-used.

Some of the equipment going to Mozambique is being recycled from the Douglasdale community in southeast Calgary.

Warren Whissell, editor of the DouglasdaleGlen newsletter, is excited about his community’s involvement with the Play it Forward program. The Emmanuel Foundation initiative is recycling used playground equipment from Calgary communities and sending it to developing countries.

Photo by: Courtney UrbaniWarren Whissell, editor of the DouglasdaleGlen newsletter, is excited about his community’s involvement with the Play it Forward program.

“The fact [is] that the playground equipment we find unusable to us is useful to people in places that are in a dire situation,” Whissell said. “It’s a great way to show how we are a community within a community and that we can bring joy to children in third world countries.”

Whissell added that the used equipment being recycled is still safe for children to play on; new, upgraded playgrounds have just replaced them.

Gary Debney, founder and president of the Emmanuel Foundation, said he is very proud of the Play it Forward program.

“I think that playing is important to any child, and kids in these less fortunate countries don’t have that opportunity,” Debney said. “We ask schools in those countries what is most important to them and they say that playgrounds are so important to the community.”

Debney added that playing on a playground also aids in children’s mental development and brings the community closer together.

“I think [children’s] motor skills are enhanced when using a playground. Most places just have dirt fields and not even a soccer ball to play with,” Debney said.

“A playground is recognized as something very important to not only the kids, but everybody else. It helps with community building because all types people will come and help put up the playground along with our volunteers.”

The Emmanuel Foundation has reconstructed more than 30 playgrounds in 18 countries since it was started in 2002.

The Play it Forward program relies on a collaborative effort for its success. The co-operation of communities like Douglasdale and volunteers like Davies willing to fundraise and travel across the world makes these projects possible.

For more information about the program or to donate to the Emmanuel Foundation, please visit their website.

curbani@cjournal.ca