It was an exciting day for the community of Teknaf in Bangladesh when a representative from the Ministry of Social Welfare joined HI staff and several dozens of children to open the first and only playground in the region.
For months, community members and HI staff have been constructing the playground with local materials, under the eager eyes from the children who couldn’t wait to try out the swings, toboggans, and especially the traditional boat that has been turned into a colorful jungle gym.
Teknaf is a very poor district. Child-friendly and inclusive places to play do not exist.
“Even the open fields are disappearing quickly,” says Farid Alam Khan, a local communications officer for HI. “Due to unplanned urbanization, almost 70% of the total open space in Bangladesh has been grabbed in the last two decades. There was a huge need for a playground with child-friendly games.”
Since opening, the playground continues to be packed with children.
“Thanks to this new playground, the children can be in a different world. We’ve already noticed that the playground connects people. It also shows the parents and the community the importance of play for children, and we hope that local organizations will follow this example and will start constructing additional playgrounds,” says Farid.
The playground is built in an inclusive way, inviting and facilitating children with disabilities to join.
“Traditionally, children with disabilities are not allowed to go out to play. But now, our teams go find children with disabilities and take them to the playground where they are welcomed. The aim is to encourage parents and other children to be more inclusive of children with disabilities.”
Growing Together is a four-year project in Thailand, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and is funded by the IKEA Foundation.
Humanity & Inclusion is creating inclusive spaces where children can come together–through play–to work through some of the challenges they face, especially children with disabilities.
In addition to inclusive playgrounds, Growing Together will target the youngest children who are at risk of developmental problems. Simultaneously, the program will engage local child development service providers and help them become more responsive to the needs of boys and girls with disabilities and other vulnerable children.