Before There Was PoH
The Playground of Hope story started writing itself after the disastrous earthquake and the subsequent tsunami that struck the Tohoku region of Japan in March 2011.
At that time, Playground of Hope’s founder, Michael Anop, dedicated his free time to volunteering in the area. First, he took part in the initial clean-up, and later helped supply communities with drinking water and fresh food as part of the Save Minami Soma project.
Ongoing Support of Play in Disaster Zones
Michael’s initial plan was to build four or five play sets. However, a closer look at the situation in the area revealed a much bigger need for safe play spaces.
Not only did facilities in the coastal region have their play equipment damaged or even washed away by the tsunami, play sets in areas relatively close to the nuclear powerplant in Fukushima had to be torn down as well. As such, there was a lot of play space rebuilding and revitalization to be done.
Since then, with the help of our partners, donors, and supporters, we built more than 60 play sets in the Tohoku region, and are still helping with the ongoing rebuilding efforts. Additionally, we are also helping with revitalizing play spaces that have been affected by the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake.
We are also ready to be the first ones to start bringing play into any future communities affected by a natural disaster.
Connecting Play with
While working on play space revitalization projects at children’s homes, we have interacted not only with many children, but also with the staff that both administers the facilities and takes care of the children.
One question that kept popping up while talking with the staff was whether there was anything we could do to also engage the older children – junior high and senior high school students.
As a result of that, we developed our Real Life Learning Curriculum project in which we let the children participate not only in the play event itself, but also in its planning stages to give them a chance to learn important skills including budgeting and project management.
Not only that, but we also use the relationships developed through those projects to give the children chances to experience various types of jobs at our sponsor companies, and even to land full time jobs straight out of the home.
Spreading the Word About the Importance of Play
Supporting play at facilities where needed the most, including in disaster zones at children's homes, is our priority.
However, we have also started to provide education about the importance of play to the general public and to help companies organize play festivals in their communities.