A vivid memory of my growing up years is the time I spent in the park with my friends. I remember the fights, the games, and the friendships I forged there.
I am not entirely sure if my kids would feel the same way.
At the rate at which cities are growing, having access to parks and playgrounds is a luxury.
But some changes are on the way, thanks to changemakers like Gandhi Fellow Simran Varma.
The Gandhi Fellowship, based on some of Gandhi’s principles, is offered to individuals under the age of 25 by the Kaivalya Education Foundation.
The Gandhi Fellowship is a carefully structured two-year residential program for individuals who want to understand impending problems in society at the grassroots level. The Fellowship helps individuals transform, become self-aware and understand their capabilities while developing a robust co-dependent ecosystem, and realising their personal goals and dreams.
Simran is currently working with Mumbai Municipal Schools and is on a mission to help build playgrounds for the children of the schools she works in.
In this mission, Krithika Ganesan, another Gandhi Fellow also based in Mumbai, is ably supporting Simran.
Why a playground?
“Given that it is Mumbai, there is little or no space. In such a situation requesting for a playground was not something that was welcomed. We identified two areas in Mumbai, Oshiwara and Malwani, and decided to try and build playgrounds here,” says Simran, speaking to The Better India.
Both these places have playgrounds, but the size is so small that it does no good for the children in the area.
A majority of the kids who attend schools in these areas are already going through many hardships. High crime rates, substance abuse, and rampant child sexual abuse are some of the issues in these areas.
Simran says, “One way to ensure that we keep kids away from these issues is providing them with safe places. With that intent we started thinking about creating playgrounds.”
Simran says, “Most of our students come from slums with zero amenities. This leaves them with hundreds of responsibilities like filling water, cooking, looking after siblings or supporting their parents by working part-time. The five hours that the children spend in their schools is their best shot at living a carefree life. In an attempt to make their time in school more accommodative and fun, we are making these playgrounds in our schools.”
In making this dream a reality, Anthill Creations has been roped in because of their unique and sustainable designs.
Help from Anthill Creations
Launched in 2015 by five architecture graduates from IIT Kharagpur, Anthill Creations is a company that provides young ones with safe and open spaces in cities, by using scrap tyres to build play areas.
“Since Anthill had not worked in Mumbai earlier, this was a great opportunity for both of us to work together on these two projects. The children of these municipal schools lay a lot of emphasis on recycling and waste management. What we loved about Anthill was their sustainable approach to building the playgrounds,” says Simran.
Simran says that with these playgrounds they are also hoping to get more children enrolled and enthusiastic about coming to school.
“Some of the playground designs are truly amazing,” she says.
Impact of these playgrounds
Simran is confident that the playgrounds will benefit almost 2,500 students in and around the two areas. 11 schools in the Oshiwara and Malwani area will use the two playgrounds.
“As someone who went to private schools and was fortunate enough to study in good institutions, I always believed that kids from municipal and public schools were just not motivated enough to study.”
“That was perhaps the first myth that got debunked with me working here. Not only are the kids extremely smart but also very passionate about learning. All they need is the right environment,” says Simran.
Here’s how you can help
Simran and Krithika Ganesan are raising money to build these playgrounds.
(Edited By Vinayak Hegde)