NGO ‘STEARS’ builds safe play spaces for kids from scrap to encourage creativity, bridge ‘privilege gap
By Mushtaq Bhat
Srinagar, Jan 08, : With pandemic locking up children in homes and online education increasing the dependency of the children on screen, the need for children to play outside has never been felt more. But due to a lack of safe playing spaces, the parents are encountering anxiety while sending their children to play outside.
A Kashmir-based NGO that works in the areas of education, peace, youth, communities, has come with up an idea to create guarded and safe amusement parks for children with scrap items.
The debut park has been built at Child Nurture and Relief (Chinar Home Kashmir), a residential home for orphaned children at Khanpora Budgam, in collaboration with ‘Anthill creations’, an NGO that aims to create sustainable playscapes for children.
The amusement park has been constructed from scrap materials, except for the iron bars that the ‘Chinar Home’ authorities had to procure from the market.
Even while using the scrap items, ‘Anthill Creations’ and their team of engineers from IIT Kharagpur, took the carbon-footprint aspect into consideration and made sure that the items were completely reusable.
“The park is an advanced concept where the space is intriguing for both privileged and under-privileged children. The motive is to give them a space where they can grow with a sense of humility and empathy towards one another,” Sreejith Ajith, the designer of the park said.
The creators of the park believe that such spaces offer the children an opportunity to transform their individual conflict into something productive, and the safety precautions that have been taken into consideration while building the park would prevent the parents from resorting to anxiety.
Pertinently, while the park was being constructed, the children at ‘Chinar Home Kashmir’ were also encouraged to take part in its development. This was meant to give them a sense of ownership of the park.
Masooma Zehra, the in-charge of Chinar residential home said that the authorities welcomed the idea of an amusement park because they thought that it would help the children shake off the gloom of the pandemic.
“The holistic development of a child includes physical development, and the pandemic has largely affected the outdoor activities of the children. They are locked up in one place and they don’t go to school. This impacts the psyche of the children, and orphans in particular can easily slip into mental trauma,” Zehra added.
The design of the park is such that while developing the inner-core of the children, it also helps develop their cognitive capacity, decision-making process and grooms the psycho-social aspects of their personality.
The creators of the park say that earlier, when there was a Mohalla system, no matter what class you were from, the Mohallas provided the children with a safe environment to play in and at the same time imbibed the cultural ethos and empathy in them.
“But nowadays, the colony system has substantially changed that scenario, and children are exposed to lots of vulnerabilities including societal evils and physical harm.”
They say that the colony system has driven the privileged people away from the underprivileged ones.
“We came up with an idea to create safe spaces, where without adult supervision, the children of all classes can play and explore their individuality; learn the social ethos, and develop empathy, love, and compassion for one another,” Omar Hafiz, a renowned developmental practitioner and founder ‘STEARS’ said.
The non-profit is planning to extend the programme to all the ten districts of the valley, especially to the areas where the children do not have access to safe amusement parks.
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