Playgrounds: a piece of childhood

Playgrounds didn’t exist so far in the villages of Northern Iraq. Just as in other places the communities of Sheik Wasanan and Jalamord were busy with rebuilding infrastructure after years of Saddam Hussein’s despotism. Both villages had been targets of the “Anfal-capmaign” in the end of the 1980s when the Iraqi regime used chemical gas and mass deportation in its scorched earth policy against the Kurdish populations in Northern Iraq. Up to this day the supply of water, schools and medical assistance remains a continuous problem. Often parents are glad if transport to the nearest school is possible, each child has a chair in the classroom and the roof doesn’t leak in winter. Creating a space for childhood wasn’t a topic thus far. Children are the development potential of every society. They need spaces where they can be children to grow up to be responsible adults.

The need is obvious. Since years WADI staff has been visiting 170 communities with to play mobiles in regular intervals. The busses are packed with slides and swings to set up a mobile playground for a couple hours. The children can also borrow dolls, cars and books. Often the kids are waiting impatiently for the busses to arrive. The busses don’t only provide distraction in a meager landscape providing little stimulation for outdoor play. They also stand for the acceptance of children’s needs. With the busses the children find community workers who understand children’s needs.

Since the busses were so popular the villagers started asking if they could have a permanent playground. In Jalamord Darko Osman is very proud. The third grader says: “If I hadn’t said it out loud about the playground we wouldn’t have one now.”

The adults assisted building the playground. 33-year olf Samal Faizullah was on the fore-front in the community of Jalamord with it’s 16 houses. Having grown up as a half orphan, he knows how harsh childhood can be of there is no space for children. Now, he is a father himself and says: “Our children have lost a part of their childhood before. Now they have a place to play and to their own.” Amjani, one of the children says: “Now, I can go to the playground when my faster is busy and sends me away.” For Shaima, a ten-year-old girl, the playground means that she doen’t have to play on the dusty village road anymore. “We are now like other children.”

In Scheich Wasanan in the Balisan district it was the village headman Mohammed Amin, himself a father of three, who kept asking about a playground when talking to WADIs staff. For him useful leisure time activity for children is important: “They are now so happy. They get new ideas. Before they were just killing time because they had no place to go.” Twelve-year-old Karzan Mohammed, whose mother lost her eye-sight from the poison gas says: Before weh ad to accompany our parents to the fields. Now, we have space for us.“

In February and March 2013 the two playgrounds were completed. In the district town Balisan a kindergarten opened at the same time – the first in the district. When it turned out that the kindergarten lacked toys and a playground, WADI helped out with a left over amount from the playground project to build another small playground for the kindergarten which cares for 25 children.

All together the playground project reaches 136 children aged up to 12.