Malawi is one of Africa’s least-developed countries. Especially in the rural areas the facilities are very limited. Which does not mean that there are no possibilities. In co-operation with Sakaramenta, a social business based in the south of Malawi, Designers Pim van Baarsen and Luc van Hoeckel designed a complete playground from scratch. Located at an old parking lot of the side of the BEIT Cure hospital who specialize in orthopedic treatments for children.
Without a hangout and inspiring environment, most of the young patients were bored and stayed inside all day. With their limited mobility, they were sitting in their wheelchairs or just on the floor, watching the day’s pass by…
Knowing this the two Dutch designers had a simple focus point; an inspiring, strong, sustainable playground created with the use of local materials. To get to know what materials were available and useful for the production of playground equipment, Luc and Pim did research on the scrapyards and old-metal markets. It was on these places were they found a guaranteed supply of certain parts as tires, springs and axles. After clearing the parking lot adjacent to the hospital, Luc and Pim livened the space up with some recycled materials turned into an inspiring playful place. Beside the playground equipment made out of old car parts, the centerpiece consists of an old and used Ambulance vehicle that was found in a junk yard. Carefully redesigned and repainted, it forms a clubhouse that stimulates the children’s imagination. Equipped with a fireman pole-slide, climbing rack, vuvuzela, a regular slide and a double steering wheel in the cabin, the former ambulance became the kids favorite.
Completely handicap accessible, the playground also promotes interaction between the disabled kids and the children living in the neighborhood. Since disability is sometimes poorly understood in African countries, a strong stigma is attached to children who appear to be “different.” This inventive new clubhouse for children was designed to break down social barriers and nurture tolerance. Beside the playground equipment Pim and Luc also thought about improvements in the working system. Since the employees used to work on 'try and error’, mistakes directly led to waste of expensive and scarce materials. To reducing the number of mistakes The designers learned the staff of Sakaramenta to work with technical drawings and 3D software. And to make sure the production would not stop on the moment the collaboration ended, molds and 1:1 drawings were provided.
At this moment the employees of Sakaramenta are still producing playground articles and serving a wide group of people in Malawi.