If you needed a bigger reason to make a donation to Whistler-based Playground Builders than 145 playgrounds that serve over 300,000 children in poor and war-torn nations, then how about this: an anonymous donor has pledged to match up to $50,000 in donations until Dec. 31.
With the matching funds, Playground Builders has the potential to raise $100,000 over the month of December, enough to build between eight and 20 playgrounds, depending on the size and location.
According to Playground Builders board member Kirby Brown, they are already within $14,000.
“Getting to the goal is the big push for this week and next, knowing that we can turn $14,000 into $28,000,” said Brown. “For us, that’s three or four big playgrounds. If we multiply the full amount using our averages… that’s the potential for another 15,000 to 25,000 kids per day playing on playgrounds.”
To get an average number of kids playing, Playground Builders find out how many kids are at the local school and then apply a formula to determine how many of those kids can use the playground in a typical day.
The group was founded in 2007, and so far has built 145 playgrounds, averaging around 20 per year. This year they are on track for 35.
Brown said there are a lot of challenges going into countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, which is why they always work with local aid groups and construction companies — and often hide their involvement.
Their big focus now is Afghanistan, a country that has known little peace over the last 30 years, with a war against the Soviet Union from 1979 to 1989, unrest for the next 12 years, and another 12 years of war since the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon.
Kirby said the construction companies are at risk for taking money from outside sources.
“This is at a time when the perception is that the world is about to leave again, and most people we talk to are grateful that we’re the one organization that’s staying — despite the increased security pressure,” he said.
“People who deal with westerners are increasingly under scrutiny, so the guys on the ground are being increasingly cautious in how they approach building these playgrounds, and how we talk about them.
“These are some very brave people and they’re desperate for the work to continue.”
They could go to other countries, but after seeing the experience in Iraq — kids playing as an outlet for symptoms of post-traumatic stress, to the extent that the Iraqi government has now made playgrounds a national priority — Playground Builders is committed to Afghanistan.
“There are thousands and thousands of schools in Afghanistan, most of them at capacity, and virtually none of them have playgrounds,” said Brown.
“In Harat Province, for example, we’ve already build eight and nine more are underway, but there are 780 schools in that province alone.”
For more, visit www.playgroundbuilders.org.