Wadi’s Playbusses – Assisted Mobile Playgrounds

Wadi’s playbusses bring joy and hope to thousands of kids in remote and neglected areas of Kurdish Northern Iraq.

Two women and one man, social workers and nurses, form the crew. On four days per week they set out to poor villages in the Hauraman and Garmyan regions in which people even today suffer from the late effects of the poison gas attacks conducted by the Saddam regime. The past was violent here, and its legacy is shaping the present. The elder generation has many survivors of torture and war trauma. Almost no one of them has ever been treated, neither physically nor mentally. Children in such an environment have a hard life and less opportunities.

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The bus operating in the Hauraman area close to Halabja is wishfully waited for in each of its daily changing destinations. Whoever has witnessed this joy will understand instantly: Barely ever have these children had the feeling that their wishes count, that they are in the center of attention. Having fun, living a carefree life, this is not a given for these children. Playgrounds do not exist. The playbus team reports the story of a boy who told them he used to be convinced that only kids in TV could have such nice toys.

Travelling in a neglected region

The region is still neglected by the regional government despite the great needs. It lacks especially sufficient infrastructure and medical care. Many people are still suffering from physical and / or psychological late effects of the poison gas attacks and other genocidal actions perpetrated by the Saddam regime.

When the playbus is touring through the area, it is an immediate eyecatcher. Its exterior has been designed by the well-known Kurdish artists Rostam Aghala using colorful children’s drawings from the villages. Apart from numerous games, painting utilities and musical instruments, the bus contains sports and play equipment, pens, and a small children’s library. As long as the bus is in a village, the children can use everything they like. Things can be borrowed and returned the next time. The program includes organized games, races and reading children’s books. All children then gather around the reader who is usually presenting a fairy tale, supported with illustrations.

2000 children are deperately waiting for the Wadi playbus

The aim of this project is to support the development of these multiply disadvantaged children through play-based learning . Experiences are gathered and analyzed in order to optimize the concept and the practical implementation of the program. One day per week is devoted to the team’s planning and evaluation.

During its stays in the villages the team gets a valuable insight into the special problems and needs of the various places. Such information is important for planning new projects, and optionally also the regional administration is informed.

In general, the places are visited on a regular basis, depending on the distance, the number of children benefiting, and the local situation. A playbus can take care of about 50 villages with up to 2,000 children.

More support is needed

No wonder the playbus is continuously in need of new toys. The borrowing system and also the free distribution of small things like painting sheets or pens is an important feature of the project.

Another important strategy of the project is its quest for support and inclusion of local authorities. Several collaborations with schools have taken place, and dedicated individuals payed contributions. By including stakeholders of society, awareness of the needs of children will grow. A next goal is the organization of a “Children’s Festival” in which several villages could participate.

Again and again the playbus team is confronted with the concerns and wishes of the villagers, whether it is a demand for a computer course or the request to the playbus to offer also something to eat or provide clothes. In villages where there is no school, the desire for a student transport service is all too easy to understand. “I dreamt ,” an eight year old girl once confessed to the playbus team “that you remain in our village and live here with us.”