During our visit to Sierra Leone in April 2016, we noticed something very concerning: none of the schools we visited had extracurricular/ recreational activities or playgrounds, and/ or sport complexes. This is a great concern because recreation has a positive and profound impact on children during their formative years. Socialization opportunities during recreational times support and grow children’s social and emotional maturity that can also lead to a healthier adulthood.
One of the primary reasons children participate in recreational activities is to socialize with others, which can result in tremendous benefits for overall well-being. Through recreation, children discover who they are as individuals and who they are as members of a group. They learn the give-and-take of relationships, appropriate manners and customs, and the skills necessary to make and keep friends. Children also discover what gives them joy, passion, and meaning in life. Through recreation, children gain new experiences, engage more fully in living, and develop healthy lifestyles.
Recreation is important for all ages, but it is especially crucial during children's formative years. Socialization opportunities through recreation are needed to support children’s social-emotional maturity, and playgrounds create an avenue for children to discover what gives them joy, passion, and meaning in life. Without access to recreational activities, the children in the areas we serve are left to find recreational activities on their own in the streets. This may lead younger boys and girls to being exposed and introduced to minor crimes as well as inappropriate sexual activity, which can lead to teenage pregnancy. According to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), Sierra Leone ranked among the ten nations with the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the world, with 28% of girls aged 15-19 years pregnant or already having had at least one birth (UNFPA, 2016). The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNOCD) also reported that juvenile delinquency in Sierra Leone has been on the rise in the last five years. A research conducted by Northeastern University College of Criminal Justice in 2008 concluded that children’s participation in extracurricular activities greatly improves their grades and reduces the likelihood that they will participate in risky behavior. We know the impact that these activities or lack thereof can have on children’s social development and academic achievement, therefore Lift a Village is proposing that recreational/sport complexes are to be built in schools and communities across Sierra Leone.
Lift a Village hopes to transform a red-dusted field into a recreational complex, equipped with an engaging playground, soccer field, tennis court, basketball court, a track and field trail, seating stands, benches, two bathrooms, and a water tap. The proposed site for the first complex is Kroo Bay, which is a sprawling slum in the center of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. Home to over 14,000 residents, half of whom are children, the shanty town sits amid mounds of mud and sewage with two schools and eight community bathrooms. A recreational complex in this location will serve as an empowering beacon of hope for the children in this community. The estimated cost to establish a Fun Safe Place in Kroo Bay is around $10,385.