After an environmental disaster, when people are focused on filling out FEMA forms, trying to find clothes and medicine, organizing a place to stay, and even coping with such formerly mundane matters as wishing to brush your child’s hair and realizing the hairbrush is gone, along with all the family photos and other precious and useful accouterments of life — who can possibly think of play?
And yet, according to KaBOOM!, a non-profit organization dedicated to “bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all kids, particularly those growing up in poverty in America,” play is essential for helping children deal with the wrenching loss of their home, their routine, and possibly even their loved ones, including animals.
In 2016 and 2018, the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina suffered severe damage from Hurricanes Matthew and Florence. On April 24 of this year, working with the Lumbee Tribe, KaBOOM, and the state Blue Cross-Blue Shield, hundreds of volunteers came together in the town of Maxton, NC. In just six hours, they had built a playground for the children of the community.
“What this playground will do is bring hope and healing to our people,” Lumbee Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin said. “We’ve been through two hurricanes right on this very spot. This whole area where the playground is being built today was completely under three feet of water after Hurricane Florence.” The 2,500-square-foot playground offers 20 pieces of equipment for climbing, swinging, sliding, and other activities. Moreover, it was designed to be welcoming for all children, including those with special needs.
The design of the playground was largely influenced by the children of the community themselves, who made pictures and described to volunteers what their ideal playground would look like.

Trebbe Johnson
Trebbe JohnsonFounder
Trebbe is the author of The World Is a Waiting Lover and 101 Ways to Make Guerrilla Beauty. Her new book, Radical Joy for Hard Times: Finding Meaning and Making Beauty, will be published in Fall 2018 by North Atlantic Books. Her articles about people’s emotional and spiritual relationship with nature have appeared in Orion, Sierra, Ecopsychology, The Ecologist, The Nation, Harper’s and other magazines. She lives with her husband, Andrew Gardner, in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, a region currently under exploitation by natural gas companies.

Image Credit:

  • Playground Lumbee: Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina


  • IMG 5758

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