Playgrounds for Peace Mission #1

Playground development for La Linere Refugee Camp, Dunkirk, France

How Playgrounds for Peace was born! 

One of our team Shakti was on the Internet looking up news about the closing of the Calais ‘jungle’ refugee camp. She stumbled across a facebook page for the Dunkirk Refugee Childrens Centre and information about La Linière Refugee camp.

Shakti contacted Dunkirk Childrens Centre on Monday 1st November 2016 after seeing a post asking for help to improve the playground for the children.

The long term volunteers expressed an ongoing issue with the playground in front of the children’s centre. The lay of the land is dangerous, with large stones covering the main play areas. Regular flooding is a problem in key play areas with no adequate drainage. There are also playground structures which currently do not have a suitable impact base so the children are hurting themselves when they use the slide, swings and climbing frame area. Children are becoming injured during playtime, from stones being thrown when tensions rise in the camp.  The children also trip up and fall over regularly. The land makes ball play near impossible.

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The situation these children are in is far from normal. These children are exhausted. These children are anxious. These children are stressed.  I was told one new arrival, a young girl around 6 years old, has spent the past three days crying pretty much non stop. La Linière Refugee camp is going to be the first memories some of these children will have.

Being in awe of the work the volunteers are doing, and understanding more about how the children interact with the play areas, Shakti, Stuart and Rich decided to get involved and help provide these children with their basic human right to enjoy PLAY!

It’s every child’s basic human right to PLAY! 

The thought of these children after everything they are going through, and that they don’t have an adequate area to kick a ball without the risk of serious injury inspired us spring into action!  Sheffield friends got their heads together and formed a team of people with many different skills, passion and specialisms!  Our aim is to help fund, develop and create a safe exciting enjoyable relaxing playground for the children to use.  We also want to look into drainage solutions for the main play area.

Playgrounds for Peace was born!

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The Dunkirk Refugee Childrens Centre

The volunteers work at the Dunkirk Refugees Children Centre 5 or more days a week providing valuable play based learning experiences and a space for creative expression. The Children’s Centre provides a soft play room for babies and parents, a nursery class and creative, art, sport and film sessions.  It is so important for the children to engage in a variety of activities, and who need this space to play, share a smile, and receive support in a safe environment.  These children, their safety and well being are the primary focus of all the volunteers.  The Dunkirk Refugees Childrens Centre operates entirely on donations from the public.

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What motions have we gone through?

We’ve spoken a lot to the volunteer’s about their experiences and feelings about working with the children, and how they are managing to use and maintain the play area.  The volunteers have expressed:

  • it was be great to see a safer area develop around the swing and slide where there is no impact layer and flooding occurs. This is a key areas where the children spend a lot of time.
  • creating new spaces such as a 10m x 10m playground, which can be promoted as a ‘safe play area’ which may also help with discouraging aggression and from throwing stones. This area with time and enough people to support it, could potentially help to make the children see it as a safe zone where aggression is the exception and not the norm.  This area would also be a perfect place for the children to play balls games which currently is impossible to play safely.
  • developing new innovative playground structures in the play area for the children to interact with and enjoy.
  • the childrens centre need a team to build a roof between their 2 buildings (which they have funding in place for), and a generator installing which another charity has offered to do.

We’ve already contacted builder yards, playground creators, architects, landscape architects, tree surgeons, forest teachers, artists based in the UK and France and the response with advice and help being offered about creative play ideas and playground build solutions and the feedback has been truly overwhelming.  We’re starting to get a really good picture of what we need to do to make to start working on this project.

What do we aim to achieve?

Our main goal for our first trip is to see how the playground interacts with the adults and children that use it and start drafting up what quick progress we can make!   We hope to create a safe, educational, relaxing and exciting playground!!

  • look at how we can maintain and develop the existing play areas – swing and slide with an impact base and layer.  We’d also like to paint the slide
  • look into new playground structures we can install made from sturdy eco materials which are not flammable
  • use a participatory and democratic approach; prioritizing children within the process of creating the playground.
  • create a playground which is easy to make and dismantle and recycle after use
  • investigate immediate drainage solutions
  • investigate how to make the ground surfacing condition better
  • produce a site map and measurements of our proposed landscaping work
  • blog and crowdfund for the materials needed for the playground
  • find supporters for the project with donations of building materials needed, and also supporters who can offer their expertise and transportation
  • we’d like to find out more about creative outdoor play activities the children can engage in  together

How we got started so quickly!?

We set up a Just Giving page on November 3rd 2016 and within 24 hours we’d raised £905.00 pounds of our £3280.00 target.  Playgrounds for Peace team have already had two trips to La Liniere Refugee Camp!  It’s now the 5th December 2016 and we’ve reached our target thanks to 106 people who contributed to the project!  We’re planning a third trip this December.  If you would like to donate please click the safe secure link below.