Play Africa, the award-winning interactive “children’s museum” based at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, launched a new original programme that has been designed to strengthen social inclusion and ubuntu through facilitated workshops and exhibits that promote empathy and compassion.
The Bridges of Peace programme, which officially kicked off on May 30th at Emfundisweni School in Alexandra, is ambitious in scale, aiming to reach 3000 children during its rollout from May to end July. The announcement of its recent milestones and full programme, which amplifies the core values of Nelson Mandela, comes fittingly on Mandela Day 2022.
“My belief is that this programme is the most relevant and powerful programme currently being run by a children’s museum anywhere in the world – because of our close partnership with people in the communities affected by violence, because of its focus on healing and centring of children’s voices and experiences of violence, and because of its scale,” says Play Africa’s Founder Gretchen Wilson-Prangley.
The programme has been designed and implemented by Play Africa in collaboration with the education team at Constitution Hill, using dialogue and playful activities to build a sense of inclusion, empathy and tolerance among refugee and host-country children in South Africa. It responds to issues of xenophobia, bullying and violence by building bridges of understanding, empathy and ubuntu.
Already the impact of the Bridges of Peace Programme is being seen: in the four-week period after the May 30th kick-off, 2866 children in Alexandra, Soweto and the Johannesburg CBD have experienced the programme through 71 playful, yet powerful, sessions. This rollout has been made possible through Play Africa working closely with 24 diverse partners.
“We continue to learn so much in the field through this project, the need to focus on the mental and emotional health of our children is a significant observation I continue to make with every passing session,” says Boipelo Lekwane, Programme Manager at Play Africa. “Thanks to our dedicated team, our incredible partners and supporters, and the 2800-plus children who have participated with such enthusiasm on topics so crucial in all of our lives.”
The powerful child-centred, facilitator-led interactive programme begins with a dialogue about empathy and ubuntu. The workshops and interactive exhibit include a “Children’s Wall” where children can post notes in response to questions posed (“what would make the world a better place?), a “Let It Go” session where negative emotions and experiences are released, a crafting area for children to create letters of love, appreciation or gratitude and the ‘I See You’ exhibit that helps children see each other in a different light through silhouettes.
The aims of Bridges of Peace are to foster empathy and ubuntu through dialogue and play, celebrate the rich diversity of cultures in South Africa, and inspire children to become critical thinkers. Underpinning this new Play Africa programme is a belief that for South Africa’s democracy to thrive in future generations, children need to learn to live, play, learn and work alongside one another with tolerance and peace. This begins by nurturing a shared sense of belonging and affirming the values of the Constitution and the rule of law; all these ideals that Madiba himself stood for.