Saturday, July 23, 2016

...builds to play!

"It is a happy talent to know how to play.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Playgrounds for Africa is the name. Building a playground in 2 days is the game. Oh, 23 playgrounds all across Swaziland actually. After we arrived back from our amazing trip to Italy we had 2 days before we ventured out to a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer site to build a playground. Sean, the only volunteer with any construction experience, was the trainer for the week long construction process. Anyone want to volunteer to teach 22 inexperienced Americans to build a wooden playground in rural Swaziland? I didn't think so, but Sean bravely was up to the task.

It took all 5 days to construct this playground in which Sean and 2 other volunteers designed. The project was developed by 3 volunteers tired of watching young children sit idle and lack imagination. Knowing how beneficial playgrounds were for these volunteers in their youth, they graciously invited others to join in the initiative. A $20,000 project, these three ladies have organized, financed and planned the building of 23 playgrounds in 23 Peace Corps communities nation wide. 

Back to the build - with a few design changes, tool exchanges, and extensive teaching we finished the first playground in 5 days. Now, the plan is to build each remaining playground in 2 full days. Also, without the assistance of Sean, our favorite builder, because he can't attend all builds. The test came this week, on Wednesday and Thursday, at our second training/playground site. 
Assignment: Build a playground in two days, without the assistance of Sean Collins - pretend phone calls allowed only.

I wish I could tell you in person how much WE CRUSHED IT! In person there would be exaggerated hand motions and inflection in my voice. Mixing cement, reading plans, cutting rafters, finding square, "racking" it, and making it "plum" became second nature to many volunteers. We didn't have to "scab" one thing! We actually finished at 1:30 on the second day, truthfully showing that we only need 1 1/2 days to build a playground. 

Understandably and incredibly humbled by the skills learned, everyone was very well aware that the reason we were overly arrogant is solely due to Sean. The week prior he aimed to teach volunteers that everyone could do it. He over explained, patiently re-explained, and took the time with every question, every action, and every idea. As he sat and labeled tools at build number two, I hope he was aware how much he wasn't needed. Sustainability. Empowerment. Success. Everything he was sent here to do. Its not just reserved for the Swazis.