In 2008 we, Tom and Carla (in the photo above), were studying at the University of Leeds and both spent time in East Africa working with charities and NGO’s. We both found that there were three issues that were not only close to our hearts but also that we had the experience, skill sets and drive to tackle. Firstly there was a huge lack of safe, fun and exciting playgrounds for children to play on. Secondly there was a lack of opportunities for young adults to gain training and employment. Thirdly there were far too many volunteer companies charging young volunteers crazy money and actually having a negative impact on the communities they were supposed to be helping.
During the next year we spent time researching play, playgrounds and how to set up and run a successful charity. In 2009 East African Playgrounds (EAP) was formed building our first playground in Uganda (as seen in the photo above) through our first volunteering project. That first year was a huge challenge as we both juggled our studies, part-time night shifts and setting up and running EAP. By the end of our first year we had learnt more than we thought possible, had developed a fantastic trustee board in the UK and had a very clear goal for the next 3 years.
With the recession in full swing and reduced funds for charities to apply for, we developed EAP’s ethical volunteering project to fund the development of EAP’s Ugandan playground building team, the workshop and the playgrounds that we built. Over the next 3 years we developed our designs, opened our first playground building workshop, trained our first building team, built 19 playgrounds and somehow graduated. During this period we developed our building methods and our community consultation process to make sure that we were able to custom design our playgrounds to each community and the children who would play.
The next few years were a fantastic journey that saw us build our 72nd playground in March 2015. We developed our building teams and training programs to include chances for former street children to gain training. EAP now has over 25 full time staff in Uganda. We continue to live half of the year in the UK and half in Uganda and are extremely proud of our Ugandan team, who are now building over 30 playgrounds each year.
It has been an amazing journey seeing such a simple idea grow, we are very excited to see where EAP will go next. With opportunities for EAP to expand to build playgrounds in Kenya, Rwanda and in refugee camps all on the horizon its safe to say that we will be building playgrounds for a long time coming.
Tom & Carla Gill
Founding directors of East African Playgrounds
2009 – We ran our first volunteer project, built a playground, became a charity and built our ethics through research.
2010 – We began our Ugandan build team, built up our volunteer project and built our first playground in Kenya.
2011 – We grew our reputation with universities, developed more playground ideas and built our first playground independent of Tom & Carla.
2012 – We started renting a playground building yard and reduced the time it takes to build a playground and added in sports and arts projects.
2013 – We developed our playgrounds to be more child-centred, developed our Arts & Play project & began passing on responsibilities.
2014 – Employed our first UK members of staff and grew our team to meet the demand we had for playgrounds.
2015 – Now having a team who are able to run East African Playgrounds we are now working towards our expansion to another East African country.
2016 – We aim to refine our programs to put into update our monitoring and evaluation program, include a more extensive child protection training for our team and bring the arts and play program more integrated with the playground.