Success in Bangladesh - The Play Park at Bhatiary
You may have read about the efforts of Dr. Caroline Bauer to build a special play space for the children of Chittagong in the May 2006 issue of Today's Playground If you did, you know that she had a long road ahead of her to raise the funds for an updated playground. It actually started out in a bit of a cow pasture situation.
“It started six years ago when she built a playground for the children in a village near Chittagong. It was a very popular place of course, but it was built on rented land.”
It started six years ago when she built a playground for the children in a village near Chittagong. It was a very popular place of course, but it was built on rented land. Bauer knew that should she ever leave the area, the space would not be maintained and the playground would disappear.
She then set out to find a permanent place for a newer playground, and it took about two years to find the right spot. It was four goondas (a unit of measurement compared to acres) in size, and the cost was $20,000.
It was rice land and so needed a brick fence with a deep foundation and it took 60 truckloads of dirt to raise the land to street level, says Bauer. I started with a small recreation building and it just grew to rebel up building. It is all first-class even though the location is a poor village. Bauer has seen that it is decorated with the best, most amusing tile. It has two lovely bathrooms ( Western and Asian style), a beautiful American-style kitchen, and a large meeting room. The children sit on the floor, and they can fit 70-80 children in the room for a presentation. This building also has a classroom, library, basement (finished with tile and good lighting), art gallery, and a rooftop terrace. The cost for all was $10,000. Bauer and her husband paid for $70 of the cost (a once-in-a-lifetime charity donation).
“I must say that most potential donors contacted did help, and we thank them with hugs and kisses and happy children.” - Dr. Caroline Bauer
Their daughter in Tokyo, Japan hosted a dinner party for 10 Americans, mostly banker couples, and they raised $20,000 in one evening. The remaining costs came from generous local businessmen with the cost of the playground equipment donated by a jeans manufacturer. OK, so it is built, and it is gorgeous, but it never even crossed my mind that after it was built then what?
I hadn't a clue what I would actually do with the building and how the costs of upkeep would be managed, says Bauer. The grand opening was attended by over 2,000 people, and there was a variety show with singing, an American school jump rope team, tae kwon do demonstration, and a yo-yo demon.
Now I am proud to say that the building is jumping with activities all day every day, she notes. To this day at the center, there are two permanent programs:
- A school of 33 run by a local organization that has 32,000 schools of the same model in Bangladesh.
- An after-school program for 10 very young children (rather like a Head Start program) sponsored by a Canadian/Bangladeshi foundation.
Of course, the playground is open daily. The library with 2,000 books is also open every day. They also have weekly classes:
- Art Class
- English class for teachers
- Tae kwon do (Korean Marshall art)
- Activities held whenever a volunteer is available
They have had music, storytelling, chopstick lessons, string game lessons, chess lessons, etc.
When they reached the point where they needed operating costs for the three full-time staff members, security, play park director, and playground manager, Bauer was prepared to dive into more fundraising after was built.
It would cost much more in the United States to run the program, but there the approximate cost to run the park is $3,000 a year (including staff salaries).
"I would like to have enough money in the bank to run this park for five years or so, so if leave it will still operate," says Bauer. What happens after that? It would then be given to one of the NGOs (nongovernment agencies) that are in the country.
At this point, they have received grants for $100 to $2,000, and Bauer ecstatically reports that not long ago the Bangladesh owner of Federal Express said he would give money monthly for the three permanent staff members. This frees her up to concentrate on the programs instead of fundraising. "I must say that most potential donors contacted did help, and we thank them with hugs and kisses and happy children," notes Bauer.
If you'd like to help fund this amazing play park, you can donate on gofundme.