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Every Kid Deserves a Playground
BY JUSTYNA CHARUBIN · BUSINESS OPERATIONS MANAGER · POLAND
Do you believe that every kid deserves a playground? Is giving back part of your nature?
If your answer is yes, then I hope my story will inspire you.
Last year, I spent two weeks in Uganda building the very first playground for kids in the Masindi district.
I usually travel with my friend Artur, who I have traveled with to 16 different countries, including a six-week road trip around Central Asia. I asked him if he wanted to join. Other friends did too, so we ended up as a group of seven volunteers.
We asked friends and other contacts if they knew of any organizations that may want our help. We came across Workaway, which connects people with hosts who will give you a place to stay while you volunteer.
On their website, Artur came across Shines Children’s Foundation and started conversations around their need of a playground. We knew nothing about construction and had no previous experience. But that didn’t matter, as we had plenty of enthusiasm and determination.
Planning for the Trip
Initially, we wanted to collect and ship goods. But once we took customs and shipping time into consideration, we decided to buy locally instead. We set up a crowdfunding page for the building materials, hoping that we would have enough to purchase educational materials and other essential items.
I used my five days Time2Give, and our travel and accommodation costs were coming from our own pockets. Every donation went directly to the local community project.
We raised around $5,000. Not only were we able to cover the costs of tools and materials for the playground, but we also donated shoes, socks, and sweaters to the 110 kids at the local school.
We even bought a generator to provide much needed electricity that they had been without, added rain gutters, and installed solar power for the school building.
A Warm Welcome
We arrived in Kampala, the capital of Uganda — a five-hour drive from Masindi. As we spent the day driving around town, we bought tools, chains, paints, bolts, and other items we needed.
On our second day, we finally met the kids! They welcomed us with a special show they prepared especially for us. It was just what we needed to boost our energy after our long journey, right before our hard work the following day.
We began construction by preparing concrete to stabilize the structures to ensure the safety of the playground. We wanted it to be bright and colorful, which meant painting logs, nets, and over 60 tires. It was hard work, but extremely rewarding.
In addition to building the playground, we visited a few local families to better understand how they lived. This was an important part of our stay, and our group has stayed in touch with the families as we plan a second expedition.
Thanks to this project, I learned how to appreciate the small things in life. Not only by building a playground, but through my connections with the kids and local community.
Was It Worth It?
The answer is simple: Yes.
As a Cisco employee, if giving back isn’t already a part of your nature, it definitely becomes part of it.
We care about others and are encouraged to make connections — not only in our local community but around the world. It’s how we build the bridge to possible and why we’re the world’s #1 Best Place to Work.
We rise by raising others, and one smile can change someone’s day! We left, having built a playground for fun, but we also created something to help the kids learn and stay motivated.
What’s more, I left my favorite quote on the memory board in Masindi that says, “If there is a will, there is always a way.”
This experience was just the beginning of my future projects. I want to help more and see smiling faces all over the world. Are you with me?
Connect everything. Innovate everywhere. Benefit everyone.