UWE volunteers to build playground for Tanzanian orphanage

Issue date: 27 March 2009

The UWE students participating in Project Ape this summer in Tanzania A group of seven students from the University of the West of England are going to spend the summer in a remote area of Tanzania where they will build a playground for an orphanage. The students have been fundraising to raise the £9,000 whilst studying for their final year at University. They aim to spend £7,000 on 'Project APE' (Adventure Playground of Education.) As long as they do not exceed their budget, the remaining £2,000 will be spent on dispensing medicine to the local community.

The playgrounds will be constructed from timber treated to withstand termite ant infestation with different apparatus designed to appeal to toddlers, disabled children and older children

The idea to volunteer came about when one of the group, Oliver Goddard returned from a trip to Tanzania last year. He climbed Kilimanjaro for a charity fundraiser and went to Zanzibar for a holiday. But a day spent at the Light in Africa orphanage had a profound impact on him.

Oliver Goddard explains, “I was fortunate to return to the orphanage to spend several days with the children and Mama Lynn, the founder of Light in Africa. I am an architecture student and I was intrigued to see the master plan for their new Tudor Village that is currently being built. The development will allow all the children to live on the same site, alongside the volunteers, carers, with an assembly hall and a playground. Mama Lynn and I began discussing her vision for the Tudor Village and we eventually agreed that I would try to fundraise and bring a team from the UK to help design and build the playground; Light in Africa operates purely on the donations that they receive.”

“Since returning to the UK a number of students have joined me to form 'Project APE', we have held lots of fundraising events including DJ nights at the Ferry Station in Bristol Docks, pool competitions, curry nights, barbeques and some of us have run marathons and half marathons for sponsorship. We are well on the way to reaching the £9,000 needed to build the playground.

The students are all paying for their own flights and overheads, all the money raised will be going towards Project APE. Oliver continues, “We have been given additional luggage allowances for equipment so we will be taking specialist tools and equipment with us. The treated wood will be purchased locally to maximise use of the local economy.

“We plan to keep the design simple and focus upon learning interaction and health. At this stage we are planning a playground that will be divided into four areas, with play apparatus to appeal to toddlers, disabled children, young children and older children. The playground will include monkey bars, swings, slides, a football goal, basketball nets, snakes and ladders and a stage to allow the children to perform and rebuild confidence. The entire space will be enclosed within a running track for mini Olympics competitions.”

The students supporting Oliver include Helen Romans, Liam Kelly, Sam Fitzsimmons, Kate McLelland, former UWE students Emily Bell and James Cale. Phoebe Brown and Kari Korppas will also be joining the UWE team. Phoebe will be documenting the whole project on camera, to be made available upon their return.

Laura Cox from 'Light in Africa' said, “Volunteers contribute so much to the work of Mama Lynn and Light in Africa, many donations to our organisation are used towards the running costs of four orphanages, staff wages, food, medication and education, so it is always great when a group of people come together and form a bond for a specific project such as 'Project APE'. After meeting with Ollie and some of the team last November, ideas were put forward to try to meet the needs of all age groups and abilities of the youngsters within our children's homes and then it was left to Ollie and the team to come up with something truly amazing.

“The plans so far are great and the children will get so much joy from the play equipment planned. All 'Project APE' team members are an inspiration to us all due to their hard work, commitment and dedication to making Project APE become a reality.”

Jo Earl, UWE's Volunteer Coordinator said, “I was simply amazed to find out just how much this group of students have done. The entire project has been motivated by Oliver who has gathered together a group of exceptionally motivated and focused students. We wish them all the best with this brilliant project.”

Steve West, UWE's Vice-Chancellor, said, “These students are simply exceptional, Oliver has inspired a group to do something really positive in a poor region of Africa. We wholeheartedly applaud his group for the tenacity they have shown in getting this project off the ground from the outset. It's even more impressive that they have managed to do this during their final year when exams and final degree projects take up a significant proportion of their time. Very well done.”

To learn more about the project and support the students, please visit:http://www.projectape.co.uk

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