As Playground Plans Erode, a Silver Lining Emerges


The idea to build a playground at FAFU was conceived almost two years ago, and since that time the New Canaan YMCA has been working to make that vision a reality.

FAFU students in Kibera with their "pen pals" from the United States.

FAFU students in Kibera with their “pen pals” from the United States.

Along the way, we partnered with Kids Around the World, a nonprofit, which specializes in bringing playgrounds to children who are the “victims of war, natural disaster, injustice, and economic stress.” The organization has constructed playgrounds in 60 countries over the past 20 years, and continues to grow its presence around the world.

Kenya has one of the most challenging customs agencies to navigate, and according to Dave, with Kids Around the World, there is no way to ensure your items arrive to the designated location in a safe and timely manner. Our playground has been one such item.

Spending time with FAFU students at the center.

Spending time with FAFU students at the center.

The playground arrived to Kenya in December 2015, and was finally cleared by customs late Tuesday afternoon. I think our group was entirely hopeful that with a lot of hard work and will power, we would be able to assemble the playground in two days. However, when we arrived at FAFU this morning, and the playground still wasn’t present, we knew that building it would not be a reality on this trip.

It was a definite hit to the morale of the group. We had all been extremely excited to be a part of this momentous project, the first playground in Kibera. We had a few objectives for this trip, and to know we wouldn’t be able to achieve all of them was disheartening.

Carolynn Kaufman reads with FAFU students in Kibera.

Carolynn Kaufman reads with FAFU students in Kibera.

In the wake of this incident, we have been able to spend more time with the children, which has been the silver lining.

We have orchestrated an arts and crafts exchange with the children of FAFU and their peers in Rainbow Station at the Y. We have organized pen pal letters between two of the fourth-grade classes in New Canaan and students in Kibera. We have taught the children how to play Bingo, which was a huge success. We have sat in the library and read with the children. We have painted the new dining hall. We have played a volunteer/staff/student volleyball game.

Julia Douglas with FAFU students in Kibera.

Julia Douglas with FAFU students in Kibera.

We have had busy days filled with big smiles, and are fortunate to be surrounded by children who want nothing more than our time.

The playground is scheduled to be built by the end of March by staff from Kids Around the World. The group will finish a project in Uganda, and then head to Kenya to assemble the playground at Kibera. We will send an update when the playground is in place.

[Editor’s Note: This week, we are publishing posts from Julia Douglas of the New Canaan YMCA as she writes from Nairobi, Kenya, where she’s volunteering with a team to build a playground in the world’s second largest slum, KiberaRead all of Julia’s posts here.]

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