Project Playground

Ordinary Magic

Project Playground;
Shaping a Sustainable Future
by Empowering Children.
One by One

Message from the Founders

Research has shown that the sophisticated foundation for a child's ability to grow and develop needs just four elements; food, love, safety and stimulation. American psychologist Ann Masten researched why some children manage to strive despite poverty. Her conclusion was very simple, so unremarkable but yet profound. Long term global studies show that what a child needs is a loving parent/care giver, an additional adult standing by the child and connections to opportunities, even modest opportunities. Dr Masten calls this The Ordinary Magic That Can Change a Child's Future.

Project Playground was born trough the conviction that every child has the right to a safe and nurturing childhood, as to pave the way for him or her to grow up to be a confident, positive, peaceful, ambitious and contributing citizen. It is our belief that it takes responsible adults, a well functioning system, and a supportive community to hold the hand of the child on their journey through life. Unfortunately, for many children - this is not the case.

We have pledged to our children that the bigger they build their emotional walls, the higher we'll climb to reach their inner being. During the past 2100 days that Project Playground has been in existence, we have seen children that for the first time have had someone who listens to their story, who takes on their stride, who fights for their rights. Project Playground has grown from strength to strength, overcome challenges, and gone the extra mile for any child who needed it. And we will do it over and over again, until the last child has been touched by the ordinary magic they so deserve.
Sofia Bernadotte & Frida Vesterberg, Founders

Making a Difference

Our Approach and Belief

Project Playground is unique in the way we put focus on the individual in a holistic and encompassing manner. Placing the best interest of the child above all else, we have structured and designed the classes, its content and outcomes.

Project Playground welcomes everyone between the ages of 4-18. Our reason for choosing this wide age range is additionally unique to our model as we see the needs for ongoing support - especially considering how brittle and fragile the surrounding support system in the townships so often is. We acknowledge the need for an individual to have a constant place of safety, throughout the beginning of their lives, until they are equipped to take care of themselves. Sometimes, due to various circumstances, one may not be ready to face the world at 18; Project Playground acknowledges everyone's individualism and will never close the doors on anyone. That is why certain individuals stay with us longer, until they are ready to embark on their own journey.

Why do we start at the age of 4? It's a known fact that the human brain develops most rapidly in the first few years of a child’s life. The ongoing interchange between genes and different environments – within which children are born, grow, learn and live – shapes the developing brain. During these immense critical years, the foundation is laid for a child’s physical and mental health, affecting everything from longevity to the lifelong capacity to learn, from the ability to adapt to change to the capacity for resilience against adverse circumstances. It is based on these facts that Project Playground constantly renews and develops, as to be able to provide high quality recreational activities, educational supportive programs and exploring excursions by grown ups who care - for real.

Stable, caring, interactive relationships with additional adults will benefit healthy brain development of young children. Conversely, adverse early experiences – eg, unstable caregiving, deprivation of love or nutrition, and stresses associated with neglect and maltreatment – greatly increase the likelihood of poor health and development across the entire life course.

Research has shown that high quality early childhood care and education programs can improve children’s chances for success in later life. Investing in early interventions timed to take advantage of crucial phases of brain development is necessary for all children. In particular it can improve the lives of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children and their families, with profound consequences for societies at large.

Adolescence is the period of developmental transition between childhood and adulthood, involving multiple physical, intellectual, personality, and social developmental changes. The end of this developmental period is tied more so to social and emotional factors and can be somewhat ambiguous. The first 18 years of life is thus demonstrably important, and so is stability. Project Playground strives to assist in the creation of a strong support system around a child through love, protection, food, and stimulation, or more simply put it, through ordinary magic.

"Project Playground is like home to me. I am happy when Im here. I got experiences and travelled to Sweden twice. Without Project Playground I wouldn't be where I am today"

Thabo Mahakoe started at Project Playground in 2012 and has grown with the organisation, into a responsible young man, today playing semi-professional soccer.


Project Playground takes great pride in our efficient, effective and transparent financial management.

The internal control for purchases, payments and petty cash are checked on a monthly basis by our auditors Watson Inc. They also ensure that our financial system are properly managed and that our financials truly reflect the position of Project Playground.

Monthly budget variance reports are produced and presented monthly to the center managers and department head for inspection and budget control. These are used to monitor spendings and forecast possible budget issues.

The management accounting reports are presented to the board of trustees every second month for inspection. This platform is used to highlight progress and underline budget controls.

Our annual financial statements are audited annually by Watson Inc and available to the public for inspection.

Project Playground Staff

"Working at Project Playground is more than a job, its a lifestyle" - Project Playground staff member

Project Playground believes in the importance of creating a strong and solid foundation through our staff force. We believe that it is crucial to find passionate and diverse members for efficiency, quality and credibility.

In the operational year 2015/16, Project Playground provided staff with a total of 198 days of training, completely free of charge, for the development of their skills and confidence, and of course, for the quality of our work. Trainings included first aid, child trauma, creative facilitation, leadership training, financial management, basic computer skills, sensory training, child justice act, basic employment act, and play therapy, amongst many many others.

Between September and December 2015, Project Playground invited an external Motivational Coach to strengthen the personal goal setting within the staff. The coach wrote in her summary that "The group of facilitators that I have met with has high ambitions for themselves as well as for the organization and the community of Langa. There is great potential within the group and by continuing to invest in training, workshops, as well as forums for the staff to raise ideas, the organization will grow stronger and see much positive change in the future. There is a great passion behind the work and many of the facilitators speak of the pride of belonging to the Project Playground family."

Real Life - Real Challenges

The term Township refers to the, often underdeveloped areas outside the cities, where, during apartheid the black South Africans were allocated. Consequences of the past have been carried down to the children of today, and despite that we speak of a born free generation, many children of the townships are caught in the shackles of history. That is why Project Playground has decided to work right here.

Domestic violence, child abuse and gangsterism are daily struggles in the South African townships - and with the country having one of the highest prevalence of rape in the world, HIV/AIDS in on the increase with 12% of the population infected. The university of South Africa reported that about 1 million women and children are raped every year, and that child rape, including the rape of infants, have increased by 400% the past decade.

Cases of sexual abuse is very difficult to identify, and from the ones that Project Playground has dealt with, only one case in 5.5 years has been reported by the victim herself. Other cases have been identified through home visits or picked up via rumours. Almost always, the perpetrator is a family member or close friend of the family.

A study made by The Center for Justice and Crime Prevention, The University of Cape Town and The Gender Health and Justice Research Unit, The Sexual Victimisation of Children in South Africa, showed a number of alarming environmental circumstances linked to sexual abuse of children.
The study reported that a number of factors were associated with an increased risk of sexual victimisation.
These included living with neither or just one biological parent, parental involvement in the child's whereabouts and school work, parental absence either due to hospitalisation or prolonged illness, parental substance abuse, disability status of the child, as well as sleeping density (the number of teens or adults with whom the respondent shared a room).
Project Playground's first participant assessment of 2016 showed that 40% of the respondents (353 in total) live with someone else than their mother or father.

20% of the children say that they often stay without any adult supervision at night, 13% say sometimes. A staggering 68% wish that there were adults in their home to help them with their homework. And 17% believe the adults in their home drink too much alcohol, 10% say sometimes.

From our Home Visits done in April 2016, it is estimated that 35-40% of our children live in overcrowded homes, where 75-80% of the children have no access to privacy.

To combat these social challenges, Project Playground hosted a number of events in the last year to inform participants, parents and the community about issues around violence, neglect and abuse. Amongst others, we held a Sexuality Dialogue together with the Desmund Tutu Foundation, a Parent Conference with various speakers, and a Positive Discipline Event. We also arranged a protest march in Langa against domestic violence and violence against children. Every Friday we host an open class where youth engage in a dialogue around peer pressure, sexuality, and rights and responsibilities. Our social worker is currently working on an extensive mapping around sexual abuse amongst our participants as it is so difficult to get children to disclose information around these traumatic experiences.

There has also been many improvements in the year that past. Much because Project Playground finally employed our own Social Worker and therefore could improve efficiency concerning counselling and effectiveness of the Home Visits and the follow up work. From 2015 to 2016 we went from no social worker to having one full time employed and three social work final year students who are all placed at one respective center. This has had a great positive impact on the Home Visit outcomes.

Langa Home Visits:
Green: 70% 2015 --> 74% 2016
Yellow: 16% 2015 --> 22% 2016
Red: 14% 2015 --> 4% 2016

Gugulethu Home Visits:
Green: 38% 2015 --> 74% 2016
Yellow: 40% 2015 --> 15% 2016
Red: 22% 2015 --> 11% 2016

Samora Home Visits 2016 (2015 data N/A)
Green: 59%
Yellow: 32%
Red: 9%

"One of the biggest issues we face in South African townships is sexual abuse against children. We still deal with the dilemma of children not disclosing when they have been abused. This is attributed to children not being informed on what constitutes sexual abuse, lack of information and knowledge on their rights as children as well as having insufficient support systems such as responsible adults they trust to protect them."
Nyameka Mzamo, Social Worker, Project Playground

Project Playground For the Future

About 80% of the 30,000 government funding schools in South Africa are reportedly not performing well. This means that a large majority of the 11 million children enrolled in schools are attending under-performing institutions. This, by default, has massive implications on the child's, and nation's, future. Worst hit are the schools in the rural areas and townships.

Due to the design of the schooling system, a child can actually go all their 12 primary years as an illiterate, this because you can only fail a grade twice, after which you are automatically being passed on to the next grade.

Project Playground faces big challenges with children and youth unable to speak proper English, illiteracy, poor reading and writing skills, and poor grades in maths and science. To assist our children in increasing their educational skills, we have invested in creating and implementing two educational programs;

Never Ending Stories is targeting the younger ones, aiming to evoke the interests in stories and story telling, broadening their imagination and the love of books. Further, we aim to inform the parents of the importance of story telling, and for them to read to their children, both in the aspects of education, but also to strengthen the bond between the parent and the child. To learn the alphabet, recognising letters and making them into words and sentences are important parts for school readiness, and if children do not possess these qualities, the chances that they fall behind in their school work increases.
Education Without Limits - a Maths and English support class for participants for students of grade 7 and up. This class is run by a university student who has a pool of tutors who facilitate small groups based on current knowledge, grade and curriculum. This program started in Gugulethu in 2015 and was extended to include Langa in 2016.

Education Without Limits has in Gugulethu 23 participants (budget restraints only allows for 45 participants in total at both centers combined). In the year that passed, we could see an improvement in school reports by those who attended the class. Both English and Math has a reported increase by 1.0 average respectively. Math grades increased from 3.1 to 4.0 in one year, and English from 3.0 to 4.1. The South African grading system goes from 1-7 where a 2.1 (requirement has been lowered in the past year) average is required to pass onto next grade.

Small Steps
Significant Change

Play on Wheels 2015-2016 has been a year of changes for the centre, and these have brought a new dynamic and life into the division. There were staff changes and reshuffles which made way for new ways of working and new staff dynamics that with time have been beneficial for the centre. There has also been a redesign of the Play on Wheels daily programmes. With funding fromGustav Whitefield foundation, Play on Wheels was able to buy new equipment in the form of sensory kits which have made way for many new activities and fun challenges to stimulate the participants. The new programmes have been met with much enthusiasm by staff and participants and the team is excited to see the developmental gains the participants make over time. In late 2015, a therapy dog was added to the weekly programme which developed the participants in a new and exciting way. Watching the participants grow in courage and confidence has been an incredible experience. As previous years, Play on Wheels has continued with the much appreciated and beneficial hippo- (horse) and speech therapy.

This past year has seen a few new participants join Play on Wheels and each of them has fitted in very well and love coming the centre each day. In terms of participants development, all twelve participants in Langa have met at least one of their developmental goals which was very encouraging for all involved in the process and many have needed to have new goals set for them. An example of this was Asivikele who was unable to walk when he first came to the centre in July 2015 and by January 2016 he was walking independently.

In April 2016 Play on Wheels Langa celebrated their 4th birthday which was a huge milestone for the centre. In that same month, Play on Wheels Gugulethu opened its doors for the first time to five participants on 4th April. After more than a year of planning the dream become a reality and the centre is going from strength to strength. For most of the participants this has been the first time they’ve had consistent stimulation and the developmental gains they have made in a few short months have been wonderful to behold.

"We work in conditions where hope is rare. Hope to dream. Hope to live. Extending a helping hand to a child means restoring their hope in humanity which in turn will groom them into someone that will do the same" - staff member at Project Playground

Ordinary Magic

Project Playground has had a leading roll in changing many children's lives for the better, this is examples of five outcomes in 2016.

Lutho Ningiza from Langa lives with his mother in poverty, due to which he has been forced to move several times in a very short time. For this young boy, this has had negative impact in his life - affecting his school work. No 13 year old should have to watch his mother battle to put food on the table, or keep her children warm at night. No 13 year old should be wondering where next?
Lutho found stability at Project Playground's U14 soccer class and has a 90% attendance record since the day he started in 2012. He arrives early and takes out the kits for his team mates, assists the coach with whatever is necessary, whenever. For this he was appointed U14 Captain and received an award for Best Attendance.
He was part of our Ndiyafunda study program and brings his homework weekly to do at our premises, this has assisted with his school grades.
Due to his good behaviour, commitment and achievements in school, he was one of the first to be chosen for the 2016 Gothia Cup China Team and will thus be the first one from his family to ever travel abroad.

Nolubabalo Damage started with us in 2014 as a troubled teenager. She was drinking alcohol, hanging out with wrong people and not giving her school work much attention. She started at the Netball class and became a case with our counsellor who pushed her to re-think her values. The netball coach saw her great potential and motivated her to put more effort into her sports and school. In 2015 she passed Matric and was appointed to assist with the Junior Netball team where she does life skills sessions. Early 2016 she tried out for the Western Cape Provincial Netball team and was selected and on the 21st May this year she tried our for the South African National Netball Team and was selected to represent her country. She currently studies Public Management at CPUT College in Cape Town.

Samkelo Mkvia joined Project Playground in 2012. He grew up in a single parent household but when he was merely 10 years old his mother was arrested and jailed never to have returned to his life. Samkelo used to cry himself to sleep with only one wish that his mom would return. He found solitude at Project Playground and thanks to his good behaviour he was chosen to go to Project Playground's first ever Gothia Cup in 2013. This contributed to change his life. He continued to practice and being committed to Project Playground, and in 2015 he was one of the youngest players in the prestigious Bayhill Tournament. But after this, he faced some challenges where his friends were involved in a gang, and he decided to join too. This made it difficult for him to come to practice since the rival gang was close to Project Playground premises. His struggles were unveiled when his coach found a knife in his bag and decided to involve the councellor and other institutions. Samkelo managed to leave the gang and says that today he is free. He never stopped feeling part of Project Playground and even if it threatened his life, he still showed up for practice. He was part of the team that won the Investec Dreamplay Cup in April 2016 and will be part of the team going to Gothia Cup Sweden in July.

Lerato Lethube grew up with her mom in Langa. Her father abandoned the family when Lerato was still very small - but she says growing up without a father figure has been her biggest hardship in life. Her uncle is a notorious murderer in the community, but Lerato knew from very young that she wasn't gonna take that route. Instead she turned to dance and became a very talented contemporary dancer. She joined Netball in 2014 and shortly thereafter Great Corner; she wanted to help influence children not to become gangsters or criminals and was quickly identified as one of the leaders in the new initiative. She was given training in Sweden and came back even more determined to make a change. Project Playground saw the potential in her and shortly thereafter employed her within Great Corner. In June 2016 she was awarded the Queen's Young Leaders Award for her work with Project Playground and travelled to Buckingham Palace in June to receive the award from Her Majesty the Queen of England. Straight off the plane from the Palace, Lerato went to Great Corner's camp for the new Juniors in the mountain outside Cape Town.

Fikile Sijula is a 15 year old boy who started at Project Playground in 2014. When he started he was extremely shy with hygienic challenges. The matter was reported to our counsellor who did a follow up home visit where it was later discovered that Fikile was being sexually molested by someone in the neighbourhood. Project Playground provided intensive counselling and referred the matter. Fikile loved his dance class and later discovered his talent for gumboots dance. He was spotted and invited to a gumboot production called Gumbu Tswana which saw great success in the Western Cape and he recently performed at one of CTICC's biggest stages in front of a large audience. Today is is one of the neatest and best behaved boys in the dance class.

"Strength Does Not Come From Physical Capacity,
It Comes From An Indomitable Will" - Gandhi

Project Playground would like to thank everyone that has contributed to making 2015/16 a successful and memorable year. Here's to bringing many more children a little bit of ordinary magic.

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For Financial Support
Branch 106909 Sea Point
Account Number 1008036218
Holder: Project Playground Trust