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The Opening of Ethiopia’s First Adventure Playground

On Sunday 17th April Out of The Box, in partnership with the Balderas Resident Association, parents and children officially opened the first ever Adventure Playground site in Ethiopia!

For one month the OTB team and Balderas community were joined by professional Bamboo construction workers and weavers from Southern Ethiopia; Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building and Construction (EiABC) landscape architect students, bamboo club members and staff; art students and leading Ethiopian artists and many Addis based volunteers!

We built, planted, painted and played and both the process and end result was quite simply stunning. With support and help from the children of Balderas and volunteers, the OTB team created a Bamboo playground, a small children’s playground made from recycled tyres, a traditional games area, a children's flower and vegetable permaculture garden and a 30 metre art wall installation!

In 2014 I lived in Balderas Condomium whilst working for a small local NGO called CHAEDT - who works with street children across Ethiopia. It was during this time that I first had the “light-bulb” moment to build an adventure playground and work hand-in-hand with the children, their parents and carers, and the Resident Association living in the community. I saw first hand the need and potential for developing a safe, exciting and stimulating play space for children of all ages, genders and abilities living in Balderas. I firmly believe that all children should have the right to play in the city they live in and in their immediate community. Countless studies have shown the importance of play on children’s cognitive development as well as socialisation and well-being.

Children are born with a natural hunger for experience, exploration, understanding and desire for passionate engagement with the physical and social world around them. Play - is the mechanism and process performed by children to help them achieve this intrinsic quest for learning and enjoyment (Bartlett et al 1999). Play is extremely important for enhancing wellbeing and physical, emotional and cognitive development of the child. “Play allows children to use their creativity, while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive and emotional strength” (Ginsberg 2007:183).

With the rise of urbanisation the child’s play space is increasing in threat. Competition for space in the city is rife - but particularly for the child (Ward 1978). The expanse of urbanisation brings increased forms of danger, risk and limited freedoms due to the magnification of traffic, pollution, construction and the rapid decline of available public space in the forms of parks and green spaces used for formalised forms of recreation and play (Hörschelmann and Van Blerk 2012).

Children however are dexterous will always find a way to play - but as adults we should help support them. Firstly by designating a safe space and secondly by facilitating the process by which children can design and create their own play space full of colour, excitement and sensory challenges.

That is why I created Out of The Box - to do exactly that. I see my role as helping to facilitate active community participation and engagement, whilst promoting the importance of play, cultural dialogue and exchange, and ensuring that every child has the opportunity to play, learn and socialise in their immediate community!

My hope is that is the first of many and that every child living in a condominium like Balderas will have an adventure playground - providing the opportunity to play, learn and socialise!

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