Theme: Designing with Compassion

Worldwide, nearly half of all refugees are children. Here in South Africa, a new initiative is working hard to make these children feel included. “So often children in our country, particularly those who are living in vulnerable communities, feel that they are at the margin,” explains Gretchen Wilson-Prangley, CEO of Play Africa, a pioneering children's museum based at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg. “We want every child to feel they have been seen, heard and valued as a unique, creative, competent and contributing member of our society, and we want to give them the language to help others feel the same.” Which is why the museum developed Bridges of Peace, a hands-on programme that aims to foster empathy and ubuntu, to celebrate the rich diversity of cultures in South Africa and to inspire children to become critical thinkers. The two-hour programme involves a number of activities which bring the children together, encouraging them to rethink their behaviour and how they treat other children. From sharing the kindest thing someone has ever done for them, to tracing one another’s silhouettes, being issued playful passports and writing down and then shredding negative experiences or emotions, the programme encourages empathy, mutual understanding and tolerance, which the facilitators hope will be passed on to parents and the rest of the community. “We have run the programme with more than 1,300 children already, and it’s been remarkable to see how it’s given them the language to deal with their issues in a peaceful and empathetic manner,” says Wilson-Prangley. For the Play Africa team, it has been extraordinary to see the change that happens among the children in just two hours. “You can visibly see the way in which they begin to relax, and by the end of the session, you see a difference in how they feel about themselves, and themselves as part of their community,” says Futhi Mbongwe, Programme Manager for Bridges of Peace. “One of the most powerful things we’ve seen has been children who were afraid to reveal their identity as a foreign national, hear their classmates say they are welcome in their class.” Play Africa hopes to scale up the programme, and dreams to one day take it around the world. “The challenges of bullying and xenophobia go far beyond Johannesburg,” says Wilson-Prangley. “We want every child in every country to be able to see past the barriers of their life, and imagine a future where they are citizens of the world.” Play Africa’s Bridges of Peace is supported by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, with additional support from Rand Merchant Bank. ​

100 Beautiful Things is presented by the V&A Waterfront in celebration of South Africa’s creativity, compassion, ingenuity and resilience. Every week we will be showcasing five amazingly beautiful creative things that make us proud. It is curated in partnership with Platform Creative.