In crowded Asian cities, land is expensive and parks are scarce. Streets and roads are occupied by vehicles, whether moving, parked, or stuck in traffic. As a result, people have few opportunities for outdoor exercise, socializing, and recreation. Small children are particularly affected as parents are afraid to let them play in the streets and are often too busy to take them to the few places where they may be able to play outdoors as those spaces are frequently far from home.
HealthBridge Vietnam helped address this problem by creating mobile playgrounds, wherein the local community converts a quiet street, mostly used for parking cars and motorbikes, into a temporary playground a few hours a week. Neighbors contribute old items from their home, such as boxes, to use as play items, and the local children eagerly gather to play.
Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust, HealthBridge’s partner organization in Dhaka, Bangladesh, was impressed by the success of HealthBridge Vietnam’s mobile playground and decided to try implementing it in Dhaka, a city of roughly 22 million people. As part of their Livable Cities project, WBB Trust looked into the possibility of organizing outdoor play activities for young children in a low-income neighborhood near the office. After discussing with the local community, WBB Trust launched its first mobile playground in Niribili Housing, East Dhanmondi, in February 2022. The playground is organized every Wednesday afternoon for a couple of hours and is popular among children and guardians alike.
At the launch of the program, a local official attended and he was so impressed by the initiative that he requested WBB Trust to launch a similar activity in a different residential area, this time in Soikot Housing. That program began in March 2022, with an even larger number of children participating. The program is gradually expanding to new areas.
The concept of mobile playgrounds in order to address the unmet need for children to play outdoors has also gained media attention, including coverage of the playground events and an op-ed in a major English daily. The op-ed led the local animation film company Dreamer Donkey, which does animation for the very popular Meena cartoon educational series, to offer to create, for free, a short animated video about mobile playgrounds.
HealthBridge contributed technical assistance and some funding, HealthBridge Vietnam contributed the idea and technical support on starting, and WBB Trust, in partnership with local communities, did the rest. The result: happier and healthier children, happier parents, and yet another demonstration that, even in densely populated cities, we can create outdoor play opportunities for our children.