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Building play in war zones

Whistler charity hosts documentary screening to raise funds for building playgrounds in the Middle East



What: I Know I’m Not Alone

When: Friday, Oct. 26, 6:30 p.m.

Where: MY Millennium Place

Tickets: $20

Whistler residents live in one of the biggest playgrounds in the world, and Keith Reynolds thinks it’s about time Whistler starts exporting a little of that play.

The Whistler resident is hard at work spreading the joy of play to children in war-torn countries by building more than a dozen playgrounds throughout the Middle East, where 80 per cent of the children don’t have a safe place to play.

“I’ve witnessed the human tragedy of war,” said Reynolds, founder of Playground Builders. “As the saying goes, We can’t change the past, but we can definitely influence the future.”

A Playground Builders Foundation fundraiser in Whistler may be one of those influences. The local foundation will present a screening of Michael Franti’s documentary I Know I’m Not Alone on Friday, Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m. at MY Millennium Place.

Reynolds founded the charity after spending the last 20 years traveling through developing nations in conflict. He has since built 12 playgrounds, with two still currently under construction, in schools or refugee camps in Israel, Iraq and Palestine.

“Conflict areas are where children are most marginalized and playgrounds are not part of the humanitarian package.”

When thinking about helping out people in need, the first issues charities often look to are concerns such as health, shelter and education, but Reynolds believes play is just as crucial to a child’s well being.

“I saw lots of children, but no childhoods,” he said. “I agree that medicine and school will keep people alive, but they will miss out on something very fundamental: playing.

“Playing has a lot to do with our future development. We learn a lot on the playground. You learn about taking turns and growing up.”

Watching a single schoolyard host children from multiple schools in the West Bank three years ago, Reynolds realized there was a need for more playgrounds. The playground he saw was donated by another Canadian.

“I just didn’t see any playgrounds; there were very few,” he said. “I was inspired by one playground. I saw beautiful kids go out and play and then they went back to class. Then all of a sudden other kids came through the gate. There was 30 of them and then they played for 20 minutes and left. Later on more kids showed up. Someone told me the only other playground was in the other town, so other schools brought children there to play.”

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