The Universality of Children's Play

Today we arrive at the rural village Ziavi-Bamefedo, and immediately see Patrick’s buoyant steps have returned. His beaming light defuses the weight of my heart’s concern for his recovery from the foot infection we helped tend to in December. I feel freer to get on to the business of playing! As night is falling, the children’s excitement palpably elevates, reminiscent of the freedom of summer in my childhood and playing later than usual in the warm nights with the neighborhood kids. Most of their games are quite similar to home, with patty cake type hand exchanges, a version of duck-duck goose, red rover, and a rowdy rendition of tug-of-war minus the rope. Their songs and joy will linger in our memories as connectors to a simpler time, the power of playing and the universality of children’s play.

The cadence of this village begins just before daybreak, with the swishing sound of sweeping dirt, new born baby goats calling to their mothers, and many roosters calls.  Dawn’s early light glimmers against the mud huts and dark skin of children taking their morning baths together out of buckets of steaming water. We note the caring and nurturing nature these children give to each other. We are tired this morning from a restless sleep in the humid village, and no Nescafe to jump-start our day, yet excited about the exchange that is about to occur. The number of teachers present in the schoolrooms strikes us immediately, another welcome sigh of relief in contrast to our bewilderment last trip of only one teacher being present. We start with P4 & 5, since their teacher’s are the only ones absent today.   From the P1 & P2 hut classrooms, to the open-air cinder block classrooms; joy infuses the air as each child receives their pouches with color (crayons) from the St. Andrew’s 2nd and 3rd graders. They proudly place the colorful ribbons around their necks, and smile widely as they get on to the simplest of childhood activities, although rarely done here without our presence, coloring.  Ann plays the guitar for them, and we see the impact instantly in their drawings with small guitars.