A Bengaluru-based non-profit organisation 'Anthill' had made been quite famous for a long time for building playgrounds for children from scrap -- mostly sustainable and local. Pooja Rai, an IIT Kharagpur alumnus, along with her team has now made it her mission to provide less privileged children with the room to explore and enjoy their childhood to the fullest, The New Indian Express reported.
Anthill believes playgrounds and parks play a vital role in developing the spirit of sharing, teamwork, and mutual respect among kids. The team has been making the children across India smile even before the Covid pandemic. Most of the funds of the organisation are met by Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and governments in some other cases.
Anthill Creations is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to bring back play for all age groups by building sustainable playscapes, using contextual designs and localized resources, and encouraging community participation.
The organisation aims to build play areas for children to bring a smile to their faces, as the fast-dwindling play areas pose a significant challenge to children in the present times. Pooja Rai believes they have 'come a long way' as the group changed their ground rule because face masks and hand sanitisers became mandatory over time.
After Covid spread when it was unsafe outside, Anthill creations came up with their 'out of the box' project, namely "Play In A Box". It allows children to play beyond their school playgrounds in an indoor setting. The NGO has distributed around 11,000 boxes since the pandemic induced lockdown, reported The New Indian Express.
"Play In A Box" came into being last year around March-April. The idea was that since children can't go out and the schools are closed, we wanted to design something that can help while they were at home. We are continuing with it for the second year as schools remain closed due to the second wave," Pooja said.
She said the idea was to teach play-based education to ensure the overall development of children. Five unique games are present in every box that helps develop social and emotional and cognitive skills.
One of the games is "Kith-Kith Ginti", an old hopscotch game, played on a rollout mat. It makes the children aware of the number system. Here, the children can learn numbers in different regional languages. This is how the rug has been designed.
Another integral part of the box is "Kala Kit". It's a drawing book and craft dice and consists of introductory lessons and it can help kids draw India's traditional kolams and Madhubani paintings.
Since the lockdown, Anthill's goal has been to benefit the less privileged children who are deprived of mainstream education due to the digital divide.
"Our idea is to reach out to the most marginalised children from low-income communities who have no access to digital devices. Last year, we were focusing on cities, but now we have turned our focus to rural areas and have redesigned a few games in the Box to make them contextual to rural kids," Pooja told The New Indian Express.
Play In A Box has been a well-thought-out plan that has resolved a lot of problems for kids. The parents need not worry about explaining games to their children. The games come with graphical instruction cards, which make them self-explanatory. The best part is these cards come in the regional language of the respective state.
Before the pandemic, Anthill was involved in constructing playgrounds with swings, see-saws and animal figures from scrap. During the Covid also, they have been able to build 284 playgrounds and the success of the new project.
"It has been on and off lately depending on the Covid situation. However, we managed to finish 90 playgrounds - mostly existing MOUs that we helped to finish in association with governments", Pooja said.
Before Covid, the financial needs of Anthill were significantly met by corporate CSRs. But after the pandemic, community contributions and empathetic interventions from authorities keep pouring in.
"We have worked with Odisha government's Bhubaneswar Development Authority to make the city more child friendly. Andhra government involved us in the Nadu Nedu scheme to improve the infrastructure of government schools. After understanding that we have the expertise to complete pilot projects, the government reached out after understanding that we have the expertise", " she said.
She added that the Covid time has made them more innovative and inclusive in these two years. They were also able to upgrade their already existing plans.
"Apart from building for regular kids, we have also built sensory parks for the blind and are working on a park for children with muscular dystrophy," Pooja said while speaking to The New Indian Express.
Not only educating children, but Anthill has also helped in the livelihood of local workers who build rides, animal shapes and tyre benches etc. The team also helped rural areas by including them in the scheme. The village communities contribute 42% of the play areas built by the organisation.
"A few IAS officers brought this idea to their districts, and we built playgrounds there, while communities also helped when CSR was low", she added.
Asked about the possibility of outdoor classrooms by the institutions, Pooja said that the team is ready to surprise the students when they are back to schools.
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