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Turning Dreams into Playgrounds

Eihab Boraie speaks to the GUC professors making going to school that much better as their Learn-Move-Play-Ground initiative works with students and teachers to refurbish their playgrounds.

Egypt is a country that on the surface looks to be non-functional. However, when examined under a microscope, it becomes clear that Egypt is getting better, and a large part of the improvement isn't due to efforts of politicians or military strong men, it is thanks to the often unnoticed efforts of people who care, NGOs and collaborative initiatives that seek to make a positive change without relying on the state. Proving that a little effort can go a long way is a project called Learn-Move-Play-Ground initiated by two GUC professors, Barbara Pampe and Vittoria Capresi, under the label Baladilab, in cooperation with the University of Siegen and the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).

The programme's goal is to improve the courtyards of impoverished schools and, during the pilot project, they were able to bring together 36 students from both Egypt and Germany, that spent 12 days with children and teachers of the school to actualise their dream playground, unlocking their creativity and imagination in the process.

Since it's inception in 2012, the initiative have successfully completed two campaigns that completely transformed the playgrounds of four schools that desperately needed it, and are currently working on their third campaign. “Right now we are working in a school in the area of Ain Shams, in cooperation with UNHCR,” explains Professor Pampe.

Each campaign is split into various phases that involve planning, staging, and implementing feedback. “From the participatory workshop with the children, to the design workshop with architecture students, to the day of the 'feedback' where the children, teachers and the directors of the school are asked to give us a feedback on our design before finally implementing the plan,” Professor Pampe specifies.

With every campaign, the project has slightly differed but with the same rewarding results. According to Professor Capresi “the first time was a pilot project, the focus was on design and participation. The second time the project focused on the educational side, we had specialists come in work closely with teachers.” For their third campaign, the programme once again shifted the focus by bringing together Egyptians and Syrians. “This time the group of kids we are working with are mixed Egyptian and Syrian, and one of the goal of the Learn-Move-Play-Ground is to promote acceptance and integration by making the kids working together with a common aim.”

The third round of the project is expected to be completed before Ramadan, with other projects still being planned for the future, and will likely continue to evolve with dreams of expanding the programme into using concrete, and even trying to expand beyond Egypt's borders.

It always amazes us how simple it is to make a positive change when there is will. In Egypt we often believe that change is not possible, and that the only ones who can fix are problems are elected officials. Thanks to the Baladilab, there is hope that Egypt can be a better place and the positive changes aren't a result of politics, but of the goodwill of people who invest their time into making the change they want to see.

Here is a list of the schools that have been transformed and the organizations and people who helped make it happen:

LMPG1 El Kods school in Ard el Lewa and Kobbet el Hewa school in Shubra (cooperation with the TU Berlin, faculty of Architecture). Project granted by the DAAD, German Academic Exchange Service

LMPG2 Asmaa Bint Bakr School in New Cairo and in the Shagarat Al Durr School in Islamic Cairo (cooperation with the University Siegen, faculty of educational science). Project granted by the DAAD, German Academic Exchange Service

LMPG3 Al Sayeda Hadiga School, in the area of Ain Shams (cooperation with the UNHCR). Project founded by the UNHCR


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