Childhood is a fundamental stage that defines the future transition of children into adulthood. As such, children should be provided with the needed care and education to enhance their mental, psychological and social development. Much of this knowledge development is gained through play.
In Palestine, there are limited areas for safe outdoor playing for children to spend their energy, interact with each other and be creative through play. Most Palestinian children spend their spare time playing in the streets, amongst passing vehicles, exposing themselves and others to high risk and danger of accidents and injuries. On the other hand, children who are restricted from playing outside become passive and unsociable, spending hours in non-interactive activities, such as watching TV or playing digital games, which are equally associated with health hazards including obesity, addiction, laziness, slower development, etc.
Outdoor playgrounds offer families and their children safe public spaces to meet, socialize and spend quality time. Moreover, public spaces require community ownership and involvement to prosper and this can contribute positively to enriching the local environment.
As a means to address this dire need, WA with the Bank of Palestine and the Basem and Muna Hishmeh Foundation launched and financed “Al-Bayyara project” since 2013 to date to establish children ‘s playgrounds in urban and rural neighborhoods to serve as recreational communal spaces for children and their families. So far, 19 playgrounds have been established and 9 are under construction, established in partnership with local municipalities/village councils.
The successful implementation of these playgrounds and their impact on the children, their families (specifically their mothers) and the community at large, motivated WA and its partners to seek additional funding to scale up their efforts to implement 10 new playgrounds annually. WA hopes that this simple intervention will be replicated at the national level in urban neighborhoods, towns, and villages, and championed by other development organizations to restore to Palestinian children their right to play safely.
Al-Bayyara: the orchard
“Al-Bayyara” is the Arabic word for the orange orchard. In the late nineteenth century, historical Palestine witnessed a surge in citrus cultivation and orchards dominated the landscape from the north to the south. After 1948, orange orchards became a symbol of Palestinian history and identity, revered with nostalgia by the old and young alike. The playgrounds will be named “Al-Bayyara” to capture the image and value that these orchards hold in the Palestinian consciousness, as the playgrounds become the focal points in their communities.
Playground games are what children strive for; for many, it is their favorite time of the day. It is well recognized that children develop much of their learning, cognitive and social skills through play and these are carried forward into their adulthood. Moreover, research shows that playgrounds are amongst the most important environments for children outside their home that enhances their imagination and creativity. Therefore, the importance of physical activity for children is widely recognized and has been the subject of public policy statements in many countries.
Furthermore, there is a general consensus that physical activity reduces the risk of psychological problems in children, fosters their self-esteem, self-care skills, encourages physical mastery and self-development, and stimulates problem-solving skills. Moreover, playgrounds provide a means to communicate with other children and adults leading to personality development and sense of connection.
In conclusion, the long-term impact of playgrounds on children is immense in terms of overall development, health, attitude, communication, interaction, and behavior. Equally, creating safe environments for children will also benefit the families and their children and will promote a sense of ownership that can help in preserving these playgrounds as a focal point for the local community.
To establish community-based outdoor recreational playgrounds that are safe for children to play and can contribute to their physical, social and cognitive development.
- To create safe communal spaces for children to play and their families to enjoy;
- To enhance children physical and mental development and social behavior through play;
- To improve the local environment by reclaim neglected plots of land for the benefit of the local community;
- To foster and build community interaction, ownership and participation.
Marginalized urban and rural neighborhoods in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip.
Selection Criteria for the Playgrounds
Al-Bayyara playgrounds are designed to meet the needs of children and their families, especially their mothers. They are designed to be safe, robust, can accommodate different age groups and maximize the use of the available spaces. Al-Bayyara utilizes simple designs and recycled materials were possible to minimize operational and maintenance cost.
A minimum area of 1000m2 is considered suitable for the plot of land to be developed into a playground so as to accommodate the following zoned activities:
- Active play area fitted with fixed equipment such as swings, slides, seesaws, climbers, as wells as fixtures that allow climbing, jumping, balancing and hanging;
- Free play area of open space, paved or sand covered for running, informal ball games, cartwheels, somersaults and rolling;
- Quiet area surrounded by trees and shrubs and fitted with benches and shaded areas to allow families and groups of children to socialize and observe the activities around them in comfort.
In addition, Al-Bayyara site selection and implementation shall meet the following fundamental additional criteria:
- Location: The playground shall be centrally located in residential neighborhoods. It shall be safely accessible on foot by children and away from main roads and dangerous intersections. Pedestrian crossing and other warning signs shall be fitted to warn drivers and pedestrians of the location of the playground and to give priority for children were relevant and safe.
- Ownership: The playground site should be owned collectively by the community and the local municipality/ village council so that entry to the playground will be free of charge. The project will encourage the election of a local committee to follow up on the operation and maintenance of the playground but other means can be negotiated if deemed plausible and supported by the community.
- Safety: The playground will be fenced completely and fitted with gates to control children mobility and keep them safe. All equipment shall be certified to ensure they conform to international standards and all measures shall be taken to reduce the risk of injuries through equipment design and floor treatment without compromising children fun and play.
- Sanitation: Maintaining a high level of cleanliness and hygiene is not only vital for children’s well-being but will encourage them to follow suit and keep their playground clean and safe. It is this communal ownership that will rally children and families alike to maintain and preserve these playgrounds in good condition and invest in them in the long-term.
For the successful selection, implementation and future sustainability of Al-Bayyara, the project team engages directly with the municipality/village council as partners in the whole process to promote ownership and interest in operating and maintaining the playground once completed. The municipality/village council is expected to:
- Provide a suitable plot of land that meets the selection criteria set by WA;
- Be actively involved in the design of the playground and its construction;
- Provide connection to power supply and water supply for playground use;
- Follow-ups on the operation and maintenance of the playground;
- Setup a local committee to ensure community engagement in preserving and maintaining the playground for the welfare of the children.