by Erin Okuno
One word comes to mind in thinking about the playground that was built at Beacon Hill International School – Community. At the end of last school year, due to vandalism and age, the former playground was torn out and the students were left with a pile of woodchips and a flat surface to play on. Last Wednesday, a new playground was built thanks to community effort.
Parent Erika Warner-Court summed up the past six-months of efforts: “An amazing and inspiring group of people came together, rising to a challenge and providing our children with a marvelous and memorable play space.” Several parents led fundraising efforts, including an online GoFundMe.com campaign. Students and children got involved by volunteering at summer fairs to sell plants, books, and baked goods, and even donated their own money.
The school was fortunate to receive several grants including a grant from KaBoom!, a national non-profit dedicated to play, and a City of Seattle Small and Simple grant. The BHIS Playground Committee worked with KaBoom! to organize and design the playground. During the design session, students drew pictures and articulated what they wanted to see in their new playground. Ideas such as slides that went underground, a playground that was all green because it should reflect nature, and bouncing bridges were gathered for input and considered in the final playground design.
For weeks before the build day Courtny Dolan, program manager from KaBoom!, kept our volunteer group on track. We gathered supplies, contacted local businesses to order food and ask for donations of coffee and breakfast treats, we recruited volunteers, and fielded many questions from students wondering when they would get a new playground.
Build day finally arrived and, along with it, pouring rain. It rained over an inch in about three hours, yet our dedicated volunteers continued to build the playground. One parent bystander remarked it was like watching gigantic IKEA furniture being assembled but, in this case, it was a playground. Inside the school another team of volunteers painted murals designed with by students. All the while, students who were walking to and from classes were ohhing and ahhing as the playground was built. For one volunteer this playground “means seeing a ‘new build’ for our South Seattle kids of color. A new build that serves our community instead of displacement.”
Over 200 volunteers showed up, including a team of over 100 from Target. Target donated funding to help build the playground and brought volunteers from as far as Silverdale and Bellingham to help during the day. It was neat see these volunteers become a part of the school community.
WHAT THE PLAYGROUND MEANS
So many people volunteered. Volunteering to serve lunch were grandparents and parents who speak Chinese as a first language working next to each other. Several of our neighborhood nonprofits got involved: the SE Seattle Tool Library loaned tools, and Odessa Brown and Launch both had staff volunteer for the day. We also benefited from reaching deeply into the school network and asking our contacts for support – a sign of a strong community. Andersen Construction volunteered skilled labor and additional tools; an amazing gift of time and talent. And while the build day happened while many parents were at work, Best Made Videos donated their services to live stream the day and Carolyn Feng took beautiful photographs helping to keep the story alive.
Place often defines us and our experiences. Children in our Southeast Seattle community now have a place where they can play safely and grow as a multi-racial community rooted in giving and sharing. Meri Joswiak, a parent and volunteer coordinator at BHIS, shared: The playground is “a symbol of the value our community places on play and providing access to ‘play-able moments’ for families.”
School board director Dr. Stephan Blanford, and former parent at the school, summed up the sentiment well when he said: “This is probably the best place in Seattle to be when there are kids running around having a good time. I’m really excited you are helping to make it better.” This is the true spirit of community.
Please join us for a community celebration and to play on the new playground on Saturday, November 19th at 9.00 a.m. at Beacon Hill International School.
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/189397833″>Beacon Hill Playground Build</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/bestmadevideos”>Best Made Videos</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
Featured photo by Carolyn Feng