Spread from “Think Playgrounds”

Wednesday, 2021-03-17 18:21:00
 Font Size:     |        Print
 

Children's play area constructed by TPG in Ha Lo village, Dong Anh district, in Hanoi.
 Font Size:     |  

NDO – “Think Playgrounds” (TPG) is the name of a special social enterprise, which brings together young people and their creativity, striving to provide an interesting and useful playground for children in the public spaces of the city.

In the early days of March, a ceremony to inaugurate a children’s playground called “San Choi No Than”, or Magic CrossBow Playground, was held in Dong Anh district, in Hanoi. The playground was built 5km from the ancient Co Loa Citadel with the magic crossbow legend woven into the history of the Vietnamese people.

Different from normal playgrounds, it was created by TPG enterprise in collaboration with artist Uu Dam based on the legend of An Duong Vuong's Magic CrossBow. The centre of the playground is an image of a giant magic crossbow divided into four parts. Children can freely play movement games such as: Sliding, going through the tube, and swinging.

Using the cultural material of the community as the inspiration for a playground for children in the community, the organisers of the Magic CrossBow Playground want the children to have fun and access historical values. The playground is just one of about 200 free children's playgrounds built by TPG over the past six years to support the community.

Female architect Chu Kim Duc, a Director of TPG, shared that at the end of 2013, she met an American woman with a lot of enthusiasm for the children's playground. She intended to give the capital's children a public playground in the city centre. For many reasons, this idea has not come to full fruition, but her unfinished project caused Kim Duc to ponder a lot.

She focused on observation and realized that urban children today are much more disadvantaged in terms of play space than rural children and compared to the childhood that her generation experienced.

Born in Hanoi in 1980, architect Chu Kim Duc used to have many playing spaces around the house. From the sidewalk, walkway to the communal playgrounds in the neighborhood, all are full of memories with her friends.

However, this is not easy now because real estate in the community is often used as a place to do business, and few people think about creating playgrounds for children. Children who want to play active games have to wait for their parents to arrange a time to bring them to other play areas and sometimes it costs a fee to get to these areas.

The children's playground has not been focused, prompting architect Kim Duc and her friend Quoc Dat to establish TPG in 2014 with a desire to change the community's perception of the need for playgrounds for children.

Initially, TPG worked as a volunteer group specialising in organizing and designing children's playgrounds, thereafter officially becoming a social enterprise to maintain sustainability and its long-term ability to operate.

The first playground held by TPG is at the mango garden space in the middle of the Red River, Hanoi. From materials such as old tires, industrial planks, bamboo, nets, and ropes, a lovely and colourful playground with swings, slides, and seesaw has been formed. Next, TPG organised a Play Day event - a fun day that attracted a large number of children and parents. Seeing their happy smiles as they were free to play, TPG members had even more motivation and confidence in their chosen direction.

This first success also opened up opportunities for many "community leaders", heads of residential areas, party secretaries or women's union representatives at ward level, to create playgrounds for children in the neighborhoods they live in, through TPG.

Many models of playgrounds for children were formed in many areas, such as in the communal house of Ngoc Ha village, Thanh Cong collective zone, Trung Hoa, Tan Mai ward, and Ha Lo village. Up to now, TPG has built about 200 playgrounds for children across the country, of which half are in Hanoi, the rest in the Northwest, Northeast, Da Nang, Hoi An, Nha Trang, and Ho Chi Minh City.

However, the journey of providing playgrounds for children is not easy. Anh Quoc Dat, co-founder of TPG shared, in order to make a playground for children, firstly, it is necessary to have a space, but “the fight” to regain public space is not easy. The consensus of the residential community is needed.

After finding the space, finding ways to connect with donors to mobilize funds is equally arduous. In addition, funding for playground maintenance and community awareness after the playground is built is also essential.

As a social enterprise, TPG determined to use part of the profits earned from its business for to the community.

When building playgrounds, whether it's a fixed or adventure playground, community garden or a mobile playground in a multi-purpose space, TPG always tries to use recycled materials. According to architect Chu Kim Duc, recycled materials not only save cost but also help stimulate creativity and the participation of the community in mobilizing raw materials and painting. In addition, using recycled materials for the playground also creates an atmosphere of friendliness, helping children become more aware of environmental protection issues.

However, architect Kim Duc said that not all recycled materials can be used. In order to make playgrounds, TPG members have to spend a lot of time researching and handling materials to ensure both safety and durability.

With the motto of bringing things the community really needs, TPG always meets the community and learns about the cultural history associated with the area before assembling ideas. "This will bring more value to the project and increase the connection and ownership of the community with that space" - architect Kim Duc shared.

TPG's training project for residential communities to build playgrounds was awarded first prize in the competition 'Raising Awareness on Green City Solutions in Vietnam' organised by the Embassy of Denmark in 2017. In 2018, the outside playground in Ha Lo village, Dong Anh district, constructed by TPG received Third Prize from UNESCO Vietnam in the art of recycling. These are the motivations for TPG to continue its efforts and persistently dedicate itself to the journey of building playgrounds and improving friendly public spaces for children in urban areas in Vietnam.