The original plan of building four or five play sets turned into a lifelong mission.
Michael Anop, Founder of Playground of Hope
Michael in Ishinomaki

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.

A Temporary Play Space:
Both a Need and a Solution

Over time, the situation stabilized and the basic needs of nutrition and housing were provided for. However, a new need started to surface.

People suddenly found themselves living in temporary housing, oftentimes next to people they have never met before. In short, the communities that used to exist in the area were washed away just like the houses, and new ones had to be built.

At the same time, children had no safe space to play in the temporary housing complexes.

With both of the problems in mind, providing a public play space, something that the government had to put on hold at the time, seemed like a solution that could tackle both of those issues.

Michael took on the challenge, gathered the necessary people and resources, and thus, PoH was born.


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.

While working in Tohoku, we learnt about play, and supporting it became our passion.

Helping with Play at
Children’s Homes

As we were looking for areas to start expanding beyond disaster zones, we were introduced to the first children’s home in our expanding network – Koyama Home in Chiba.

The problem that children’s homes face are similar to the disaster zones – funds to build quality play spaces are insufficient and children living there are often stressed because of their family circumstances.

Seeing this, we have jumped at the opportunity to match the home with a play set donor and conduct an event at the home.

With the community around children’s homes being tight-knit, we were helping with revitalizing play spaces of several other orphanages throughout the Kanto area in no time.

Connecting Play with
Children’s Future

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.


Interested in Becoming
a Part of the Story?