It’s around this festive period, when there is an abundance of joy and excitement, that I often think about places I’ve visited and the need there. I want to tell you about a playground. A colourful and happy playground in a group of dense slums in Raipur, the capital of the state Chhattisgarh, located in the middle of India. I’ve been meaning to write this post for over 2 years, since I was in India on a trip with World Vision Australia.
I didn’t see the playground when I arrived. I was greeted with crumbling buildings and litter-filled streets. Apartment blocks like this are built by the government to provide high densitiy housing for people who can’t afford other forms of accommodation. The reality is this: cheap materials are used and the lack of construction regulations means the blocks are literally falling down around the residents. The pictured housing units below are only 8 years old and already some sections have collapsed.
It’s sobering to see the size of an apartment a family of 6 (or more) live in.
A woman paused in a window above me, and smiled. I talked about the women in India, their grace and the impression they left on me here: The Power of Women Together.
The issues faced in these communities is tough. A part of me wonders if we just threw a lot of money at the problems, things would change. But it’s not that simple. Change comes slow. One of the things I witnessed about the staff of World Vision in India is how they know and understand the complexities of the challenges in each particular area, and strive to put into place programs that will both improve the wellbeing of people (beautiful people!) while providing a catalyst for change.
One of these programs is called WASH. The aim is to provide education and address water, sanitation and hygiene issues in the urban slums. For example, the court area in this apartment block was paved by the WASH program, and the residents joined in the improvements by painting the exterior block walls. Giving in the right way induces change.
World Vision also built a toilet block. This is vital for the health of the residents. One of the things recently provided for this area is a regular garbage disposal system provided by the government. One of the staff said they had success in convincing the government to provide this service for another group of apartments and worked hard on raising awareness of the need in this area too (with success!).
Photographer Misho Baranovic chats to World Vision staff about the improvements made to this group of apartments.
There is a vast difference between the crumbling side of this slum area and the area World Vision has been working with for four years. It’s encouraging when you can see change!
I remember walking along the alleyway streets with happy children vying for their picture to be taken. And then the playground came into view, and I gasped. It was wonderful! The playground came about because when the World Vision staff were developing programs for this area, one of the things that came out of discussions with residents was this request: the kids wanted somewhere safe to play. Somewhere to play, that’s safe, and clean and fun.
That hit me hard.
Within a 5 kilometre radius of where I live, there are at least ten such playgrounds for my kids to enjoy. I often take such things for granted.
In mere moments of me stepping on the soft sand base, kids flooded this space. I loved it. Notice there is a grassed area and everything!
It made me happy to see the kids playing and enjoying their special space. It was like an oasis: the heart of the area. There is something right and good about that.