Last week, I was one of about 200 volunteers from The Smile Generation, who traveled to Phoenix, AZ to build a playground in one day, for a domestic abuse shelter. Working with KaBOOM! and Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC) , the build was well organized. KaBOOM! is a “national non-profit dedicated to saving play for America’s Children.” CPLC is a “community development corporation in Arizona that offers extensive services in both urban and rural areas.”
Here are some statistics, according to http://domesticviolencestatistics.org
- Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten.
- Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
- Studies suggest that up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually.
It’s hard to imagine the violence that the children in the shelter have witnessed and experienced. They all looked so carefree and happy-go-lucky as children should be but some had haunted looks in their eyes. A playground would be a great place that would allow them to be who they are – simply kids.
The playground was designed by the kids and we were there to build it for them. In addition, there was also a free dental clinic for the residents. Last year, during another playground build in San Bernardino County, CA, I mostly helped out at the clinic. At that time, I was struck at the awesome work of our volunteer dentists – I saw nervous kids going to the dentist for the first time, and leaving with a smile. I witnessed adults shaking with joy and relief after having their teeth fixed.
In Phoenix, we were instructed not to tweet or check-in at our location, in order to protect the residents of the shelter. So you can imagine, this was a bit of a challenge for me, being as plugged in to social media as I am. Knowing the sensitivity of the location and the residents’ situations, I was happy to comply. To be honest, between moving mounds of dirt (my assigned duty) and mulch, there was hardly any time to live blog anyway.
One of the good things about working on volunteer projects like this, is the opportunity to bond with fellow workers. In this case, we all worked for the same company and we knew each other by email address and job function only. On that day though, we were working towards a common goal. At the build we were all the same — just people no – hierarchy or job titles, no departments to separate us.
The playground was completed at 4:30 pm. By then, we had worked almost 8 hours. A group of volunteers from Colorado had to leave before the ribbon cutting ceremony. Then there was the lot of us who had to make our way back to Orange County, CA. We were all exhausted and dirty, but seeing the smiles on the children’s faces made it all worthwhile.
Here is a video I created from last year’s playground build: