In September 2014, Follow The Women International sponsored a new playground project in Jenin in Palestine, joining forces with Follow The Women Denmark and The Danish House in Palestine to make this happen. Follow The Women Denmark, with additional support from the Islamic community, raised money selling food, held garage sales and collected personal donations from Nørrebro in Copenhagen.

The Danish House in Palestine (DHIP) were involved in the project as a local governing unit with all the contacts at their disposal. They helped with the accounting, language translation and provided a helping hand in various different ways. In addition, a teacher from the deaf school in Qualqilya was directly involved in the project, together with carpenter apprentices at the school. The school had organised the purchase of wood, provided the necessary tools, and the deaf students worked on the wood to ensure it was ready for transportation to Jenin.

There were numerous skype discussions prior to the build date, to plan various aspects of process. The school teachers and the deaf students helped to build a similar playground in Qalqilya last year, so they were good partners. The Follow The Women Denmark team’s trip to Jenin went via Qalqilya to take a look at this playground, whilst also visiting the orphanage that used the playground to see their accommodation.

In the Jenin refugee camp, the orphanage and kindergarten are in the same building, so this seemed an obvious place to locate the new playground to maximise its use and protect it from vandalism as it is locked during the night. The orphanage has a wide range of ages and is a very well run house, providing a safe environment with 25 happy children, a dedicated staff team and a great manager.

Tools and chain fittings for the swings were purchased in Nablus on the way to Jenin. On arrival in Jenin, just as the sun was going down, there was a formal welcome from the main contacts in the refugee camp and the local council over Arabic coffee and traditional food. This was the first proper look at the playground site, and was accompanied by lots of discussion on the drawn up plans.

The next day it was time to see orphanage and playground in broad daylight. Some of the old playground equipment was so miserable that it was decided it could not be recycled due to health and safety concerns; so unfortunately, the site had to be cleared before we could start work. Another health and safety issue was a drainage problem where waste water from the kitchen and toilets leaked into the playground space, before reaching the public network. So this ground work had to be completed before any work above ground could start.The orphanage was full of happy kids, who learned the songs, rhymes and took part in other various pre-school learning, but all the activities were happening inside the house due to the afore mentioned conditions outside.

A local official would visit to watch the progress of the project where the young deaf apprentices were working through their challenges and making progress on the building of the equipment. There was additional support from the staff at the orphanage, who got some of the local street children involved in helping to clear up and paint, which brightened up the place tremendously.

The official opening was a grand affair with a clown and entertainment for the children with face painting and games, and a performance from the Freedom Theatre, a refugee camp youth project. In this great atmosphere of fun, there were many official guests from The Danish House, Ayman and representatives from the Palestinian “Red Crescent”, who joined in with the children’s signing. This energetic atmosphere of fun and joy was a great way to show appreciation to the local mothers who provided some amazing local traditional Arabic food and drinks.

The official from the refugee camp gave a fine speech of thanks and unveiled the new plaque containing all the sponsors’ names. Afterward the children sang a song of thanksgiving. It was not just happy children that were happy with this amazing new facility but also a very happy community. The construction team, were so proud of the young people who helped to build the playground and they could see the result of all their efforts.

A big thanks to all those who made this project possible for this lovely vision of active, playful children.

For the full report in Danish, Click here.