Robin Thompson was determined to make a change when she went to Vrindavan and discovered some children were banned from a playground because they were of a certain caste.
Vrindavan is a small town in Uttar Pradesh, India. Thompson and her friend, Radhika Angie Yadav, came up with the idea for a modern playground that is open to all children, no matter their social class.
“We started this project to offer something for all kids so it won’t have anything to do with caste,” said Thompson. The duo work on the project together, even though they live in different countries —Thompson in Bedford and Yadav in Vrindavan.
Currently, there is only one public playground in Vrindavan, but it’s in poor condition and access is restricted. There are school playgrounds, but they are only open to the school’s students.
“I have witnessed them open the gate for me and my children (in the public playground) and then close it in the faces of poorer kids,” said Yadav in an interview via Facebook Messenger.
Yadav said she yelled at the guard for closing the gate, but he told her, “those kids are not good, low caste.” She took her children and left, and never went back.
After that, Thompson decided to start raising funds in Canada for a new, unrestricted playground. The latest campaign is called Wall of Love.
Along with being open to all, the playground will be the first of its kind in Vrindavan to be built with recycled, sustainable and eco-friendly materials.
Thompson said taking children to the park is common in Canada, but it isn’t “a thing” in Vrindavan.
“India is very structured towards education, which is a good thing, but it can be hard on the kids because they don’t get the time to play and they also don’t have anything to play on,” said Thompson.
Space for the playground was donated by Yadav’s husband. Yadav was born in Nova Scotia but later chose to move to India. She loved the simplicity of life in India and later married an Indian.
Yadav said she believes playgrounds are important, as children need “a safe place to explore and play because it is crucial to development.”
Problems with monkeys
The caste system isn’t the only barrier that children face. Monkeys, which Thompson said aren’t the “nice sweet types,” are also an issue.
“The monkeys are very smart and they have basically trained people. So, if you walk around and you have glasses on, they’ll take your glasses off and dangle it until you give them what they want,” said Thompson.
Yadav said monkeys have damaged the public playground in Vrindavan.
“The slide is now about six inches from the sitting part at the top,” she said. “The swings are all broken.”
To avoid this, Thompson and Yadav want to build a brick wall around their playground to keep the monkeys out.
Thompson said they’ve raised about $6,000 through different fundraisers. Through Wall of Love, donors can buy bricks and get their names or the names of their loved ones engraved on them. Each brick costs about $10.
Blaine Carter lives in Halifax and donated in his children’s names. He did it “with the intent that the kids there will see that other people cared enough to give to them and that they will feel connected by that and be encouraged to give.”
Thompson said the wall and playground will only be built when they have sufficient funds. She estimates the project will cost around $25,000.