The Česká spořitelna Foundation is a long-term partner of the program Helping People to Improve their Communities. This program supports the creation of an open dialogue, building partnerships and the revitalization of community life through public planning methods in the building of parks, playgrounds and public spaces. In 2005, we expanded our work with them and together launched the new program Via Foundation and the Česká spořitelna Foundation Support At-risk Youth Clubs for Children and Youth.
Helping People to Improve their Communities
Playground Full of Life - project by the Unho Czech Red Cross Local Chapter
Unho, a market-town not far from Kladno, is known as the entranceway to the Krivoklat Forest. Approximately three and a half thousand people live in Unho, of which nearly one-third of those are children. And it is with these local children in mind that three enthusiastic mothers, inexperienced in community development, initiated a project which would result 14 months later in a new playground.
So how did it all begin? In mid-2003, three mothers with seven children among them - Marcela Jurková, Lenka Jansová and Monika Beličková - came to the conclusion that if their children did not have a safe place to play they would to do something about it themselves. Their first step was to go to the town hall, where they received the well-worn reply no money. The Mayor did however have an idea: they should come up with a project proposal and apply for a grant from the Via Foundation.
Before submitting an application for a grant, the mothers conducted a public inquiry to decide where the playground should be. The inhabitants of Unho chose a site in Kozeluzka Park in the historical center of town. At that time, the park was completely run down: it had a stagnant fish pond, broken benches and a derelict skeleton of what had once been climbing bars for children. They decided that on the almost 2,000 m2 (about ? acre) of grounds, they would create not only a playground for the children, but also a place where all town residents could relax and enjoy.
Their project - A Playground Full of Life - was among the several dozen successful projects selected by the Via Foundation that received a grant from the Helping People to Improve their Communities program funded by Česká spořitelna. With the first 200,000 CZK in hand, they were ready to go! Marcela, Lenka, and Monika, under the auspices of the local Red Cross, began in September 2003 to drum up local support through fundraising and encouraging the participation of local people, town officials and architects. They announced a competition for children to the best logo and visual plan for the playground. At the first public planning meeting, the people of Unho decided what playground equipment they wanted to be included; the architects then incorporated in the design.
The construction finally began in April 2004. Local firms helped with the landscaping and installation of electricity for public lighting, as well as providing materials such as cement and sand. Everything was ready for a weekend of volunteer construction work! On the first weekend, 25 adults and 20 children came to volunteer. They dug out old roots, set concrete columns for a fence, painted The second weekend of work, which took place in July, was attended by 70 adults and around 50 children, who put to good-use over 2 thousand fence planks, 50 meters of wire and 50 kilograms of paint.
Finally, sand from the Czech Paradise region was laid down, other areas were planted with grass, and a slide, wooden castle, climbing bars, swings and water-fountain were installed. After one final safety inspection, the playground was finally opened to the public on August 19th. The project took 14 months to complete, cost 1.2 million CZK that had been raised through grants, sponsors and donated materials, and had been accomplished thanks to the innumerable hours of volunteer work by the residents of Unho. .
The Playground Full of Life has really lived up to its name it has built solidarity, new friendships, united families, and provided the children with a place where they can play together. The construction of the playground even yielded one surprise: During construction, a protected species of salamander was discovered to be making the fish pond their home. This discovery led to conservation efforts to ensure their continued existence as fellow residents of Unho.
What happened in Unho does not only have an impact in this one town. Its success is an example for others in the Czech Republic. As Marcela said, Weve already been contacted by people from other towns who are interested in replicating our project in other towns!
Last updated: 11/06/2006