Turning India's scrap into playgrounds

Anthill Creations
India (Bengaluru)

A social enterprise in India is bringing much needed play into children’s lives with low-cost playscapes made from scrap tyres and industrial waste.

 

A not-for-profit based in Bengaluru is making ‘play’ accessible and affordable in India, where many children live in slums or crowded urban areas that have little access to safe spaces to play. As we are all learning, a sedentary lifestyle and no play is dangerous to our health.

“I believe that play is not a luxury, it is a necessity for every single child.” – Pooja Rai

Anthill Creations makes use of some of the 31 million tonnes of scrap material dumped annually at India’s landfill sites to transform deadspaces, public parks and lakesides into playful community spaces. The not-for-profit upcycles waste material into interactive and sustainable playscapes – using contextual designs, localised resources and encouraging community participation. 

Completely DIY, its playgrounds can be built in just four days. To date, Anthill Creations has impacted over 200,000 children by building 300 playgrounds in 18 states across India.

Architecture graduate Pooja Rai (pictured below) was inspired to create the project with a group of friends in 2015. She strongly believes that play is not a luxury and wants to transform life for local children by helping their physical, social and emotional wellbeing with playgrounds – while developing child friendly and inclusive cities.

“Play is disappearing at home, at school and in communities, particularly for the 27% of Indian population living in poverty. Children are missing out on the childhood they deserve,” Pooja tells us. “A WHO study shows that one in ten kids experience mental illness and this number is even higher for children coming from low income families. This can be improved by bringing back play to children.”

The inspirational Pooja Rai

Pooja was inspired to start her own venture after authoring a book on women entrepreneurs in college. “The idea of building playgrounds came by chance when I visited a school for underprivileged children and saw them playing with unsafe things like cement pipes and broken slippers. That’s how we built the first playground.”

Anthill Creations uses waste material like tyres, cable drums, oil drums and locally available material to build playgrounds that are designed with interaction with the community members.

She was, of course, inspired by ants: “I called it Anthill after a beautiful example from nature of how tiny ants come together to build something bigger than themselves. We had picked up a large problem to bring play to all and wanted to create something similar through innovation and a collaborative culture in the company.”

“We make sure these materials are safe for children and do not have any sharp edges before procurement of the raw materials. The main purpose is to build safe, durable and interactive playgrounds for children and we do not compromise on that even when we use waste material.”

Pooja stresses that every child whether rich, poor or with special needs irrespective of their caste, colour or gender should get an equal opportunity and access to play which is so critical for their holistic development. “Living in an inclusive society makes all of us better human beings and trust me play is the best medium through which we can develop inclusivity from a very early age in children.”

When the pandemic hit the world and country went on a lockdown, 290 million children in India were affected by closure of schools due to the pandemic, especially children from low income communities who do not have access to digital devices and the internet. In response, Anthill Creations developed a self learning play based learning kit called ‘Play in a Box’ to help children in their holistic development and keep their curiosity alive at home – and distributed them to over 1,000 children. Now they are on a mission to reach out to 10,000 children and leave behind a positive impact in their lives amidst very difficult situations.

Each box contains games helping children in their physical, social, emotional and cognitive development. “These games are open ended and have many play variations so that the child will remain engaged for the next six months with just one set of boxes. This has given hope to so many children for a better future.”

Pooja believes that the pandemic could be an opportunity to improve our world and that possibilities are sprouting. “In the beginning it left all of us helpless, but in a year’s time, I have seen people come together a lot more often to help each other,” she adds. “It made a lot of us hit rock bottom and rise again, it has taught us to be hopeful, patient, innovative in the times of crisis but most of all, it has made us more empathetic humans.” 

AtlasAction:  Support Anthill’s campaign to reach 10,000 children and visit the website for a list of volunteering opportunities or drop a mail to pooja@anthillcreations.org. You can volunteer even sitting at home.

Written by

Lisa Goldapple, Editor-in-Chief, Atlas of the Future (08 March 2021)

Project leader

Pooja Rai, CEO, Anthill Creations

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Pooja and Play in a Box

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