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Words from West Africa: Play Lights Up It’s Way

Written and Illustrated by Suejin Kim

Visiting Schools with Empower Playgrounds

After a beautiful canoe ride to an island, we walked into a beautiful school campus. It had only two sounds, children playing and birds, and had an open space with trees and flowers. Along with Isaac, a founder of Empower Playgrounds, we were welcomed with fresh coconut water by a school dean and staff members.

Playing Time

To understand classroom dynamics and to break the ice, Nancy led a spaghetti activity, which is creating a tower with given spaghetti and a marshmallow in 15 minutes. Students got excited and created some interesting shapes! After, we asked the kids draw anything on napkin size piece of fabric. They drew many daily life objects, such as a soccer ball.

 

Empower Playground

In the school’s playground, kids were playing with the Empower Playgrounds supported equipment. They were excited to see us and play with us. Isaac explained that while kids play, the equipment charges lanterns that kid can borrow for after school hours to study. In places like this, where there is no electricity, this is the only source of energy. Isaac mentioned that the performance of students went up after they introduced the equipment.

Empower Playgrouds has currently installed its play equipment in 32 schools and is aiming to install it in up to 40 schools this year. However, the equipment cost about $10,000 dollars to install. The money is donated by variety of NGOs and private donors. Energizer, the battery company, donates customized lanterns. In terms of business, this seems more of an interim solution before electricity infrastructure get fully built in Ghana. For small rural towns, the interim period might last decades.

No matter what, they are doing an amazing work in villages with no electricity, so kids can study longer, saving them from hours long house chores. What a cool idea this is, from a design perspective alone! It’s the Ghanaian way of “Study hard, Play hard.”

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