The Ghana-based NGO Mmofra Foundation manages the Playtime in Africa Initiative for the benefit of children aged 3 to 16 from all socioeconomic backgrounds. With minimal infrastructure, Mmofra, which means "children," provides comprehensive nature-based cultural enrichment through this initiative. Funding to date has been provided through individual and local corporate monetary and in-kind donations, directors contributions, and some support from external partner organizations. Committed to delivering extracurricular cultural enrichment in Ghana since 1997, Mmofra draws on its extensive networks of educators and cultural practitioners who donate their time and skill in interactive hands-on sessions with kids.
Activities Offered by Playtime in Africa
Visitors to the Playtime site enter into a space that provides relief in a park-starved city. Some mature trees shade a gathering area with simple logs to sit on. Three-hour sessions take place once or twice a month in a two-acre green outdoor environment, and will increase in frequency as the site facilities develop. The initiative's approach is holistic and intergenerational. Programming includes activities in art, crafts, creative writing, games, gardening, literacy, movement and dance, science and nature exploration, sports, storytelling, theater and performance. On a "Mmofra day", children read for the first hour, followed by a facilitated session in any of the above areas. They then have time to explore and test the play features designed and built onsite. Special event days are organized which give specific focus to particular activity sets and participants. The project directs teen participants into leadership roles including opportunities in participatory design and facilitator-training.
How the Initiative Hopes to Engage Public Policymakers
Child-friendly, accessible public parks are virtually non-existent in Ghana's cities. Urban children are increasingly alienated from nature, or play in unsafe and unhygienic conditions. The structure of urban life is highly stressful for most residents, and limits the time for quality engagement between parents and children. In addition, the education system combined with parental aspirations tend to emphasize disciplinarian rote-learning and a social hierarchy of which children are very conscious. As urbanization becomes an important global issue, Playtime in Africa works towards creating a rich setting to support observation, research and design solutions driven by urban African experience, especially in relation to youth, health and recreation. A major subset of these youth are girls, who benefit by broadening their experience in both arts and STEM, in a safe, hygienic setting. The project seeks to be a pioneer in tropical African public space design for children and highlights the integration of good public health practice and transformative ideas for child-friendly city living.
The Playtime in Africa Initiative is also at the forefront of a green space lobby in Accra. In August of 2013, the initiative organized a high-profile government meeting where representatives spoke with ministers and officials about making green spaces a greater priority in the city. They challenged current policy and regulations with evidence collected from internal evaluations of the program.
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CEI approaches in actionStudent supportExtra-curricular activitiesLearning materials for studentsCommunity resourcesPolicy & AnalysisEnglish languageLocal language/Mother tongue languageCulture/indigenous knowledgeArt & MusicSportsOther
Model details2012Not-for-profitLiteracyEnglish languageLocal language/Mother tongue languageCulture/indigenous knowledgeArt & MusicSportsOtherEnvironmental educationActiveLong-term projectFree service or productSutherland & Sutherland ArchitectsFriends of MmofraMIIM Designs, LLC60045%55%
BeneficiariesOtherPlaytime in Africa targets all youth in Accra that could benefit from its services. An important part of this population is out-of-school, orphaned, or otherwise vulnerable children.
The Playtime in Africa Initiative has developed relationships with many schools over time, including 60 in its immediate environment. Typically, a letter is sent to schools a month ahead of time notifying them of upcoming opportunities. These schools range from very poorly resourced to well-endowed. With the wide socio-economic range of schools served, the initiative has generated a very diverse network of educators and professionals.
In addition to schools, Playtime in Africa reaches out to other programs for under-served populations such as slum-based enrichment clubs and street children's groups.
While attendance is heavily weighted towards children from lower and middle income families, youths from all socioeconomic backgrounds are encouraged to take part in the program.
The Playtime in Africa Initiative currently operates at two adjacent locations. The 2 acre space is prime real estate which was donated by the organization's founder. Attendance for its programs ranges from 30 on a rainy day to 200 on a full day. While the initiative does not target a specific gender, it offers a safe outdoor space for girls as well as several leadership opportunities in areas such as product design.
By emphasizing green spaces as an intergenerational and cultural space for learning, Playtime in Africa hopes to encourage more civic engagement around open space initiatives in the future. The project aims to generate partnerships at the university level in research, courses, design studio and service learning. Furthermore, it hopes to continue and share its research on urban quality of life, public health issues such as clean water, sanitation and mosquito deterrence, horticultural and environmental best practices, and the harnessing of knowledge capital of rural migrants.