Places Where Play Heals People: The Real Play City Challenge 2022 Shortlist

Five urban practitioners and two cities were shortlisted from 92 entries to the Real Play City Challenge, for creating spaces that bring healing to children who have experienced conflict or crisis. From helping marginalized young ladies women heal from trauma, to creating play spaces for disabled children with disabilities, these phenomenal playmakers are making a positive difference in the lives of children and their communities at large through the power of play.

Here are the shortlisted entries: Find out more about the shortlisted cities and urban practitioners in the places that heal people category:



Dina Ntziora – Athens, Greece:
Through the ‘Baytna Hub’ (Baytna meaning ‘our home’), Ntziora created a space that offers play-based activities in public spaces like libraries. The programme was developed specifically to address the particular needs of refugee children who have suffered from trauma. The programme also engages parents and caregivers to provide a safe environment for kids to develop healthy relationships with the communities they’re placed in.

Public Space Network – Nairobi, Kenya:
In Dandora, children are exposed to crime and, by the time they reach 15, they often become involved in it. To give these children a chance at a positive future, The Public Space Network created the Changing Faces Competition. The objective of this initiative is to leverage a fun competition to mobilise youth teams to take responsibility for managing the public spaces in their vicinity.

This competition helps to provide kids with a safe, clean and green space to interact and play with other kids after school. There, they learn about opportunities for a hopeful future and they get to nurture their dreams. The competition itself gives them responsibility for making public spaces around them the cleanest, safest, greenest places in their neighbourhood, full to the brim with things to play with.!

COPERA Infancia – Lima, Peru:
Through In nuestro barrio, cuento contigo (In our neighbourhood, I count on you), COPERA has used findings on the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of families and young children to make spaces that provide protection, comfort and contact with nature. COPERA found that emotional wellbeing of kids comes directly from the behaviour of their caregivers, so these spaces are a place where people can come together and support one another and interact happily together.

Colors of Connection – Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo:

The Girl Awakening Initiative by Colors of Connection is set up in places where people, particularly women with low resources, have experienced experience a high frequency of traumatic events. In Togo, they create a safe and empowering space for girls to work through their trauma through art, and feel empowered again. In this play space, girls create artworks that draw on indigenous practices and support mental health. To date, the programme has helped 300 marginalized girls.

The White Helmets, Syria Civil Defence – Adlib, Syria:
In Northwest Syria, nearly half of the population (47%) is disabled, which is much higher than the global average of 15%. The children with disabilities have very few friendly and adaptable play spaces due to the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Syria.

As a local organization, White Helmet plays a very vital role by building playgrounds and adapting local infrastructure to the needs of disabled children through cost-efficient and on-demand solutions. All this positively impacts children and the community at large, by helping with their healing process.



Pocket Parks as a Healer- Kohima Smart City Development, India

Due to the unique land holding system in Kohima, all land is owned by tribal communities and protected under the Constitution Act. There is a scarcity of open spaces around neighbourhoods of Kohima, which has resulted in children not having many opportunities to play outdoors.

Kohima Smart City identified unused spaces, refuse sites dumping pockets and residual spaces around steep street turns and corners and envisioned how they can be transformed into safe child friendly pocket parks. These spaces played the role of treasured spaces that helped children overcome their fear of the pandemic, and also provided resting points for care-givers as well.

Play-Friendly City Park- Thrissur Muncipal Corporation, India

Nehru Park located at in the centre of Thrissur city, was formed in 1959 as a joint initiative of Thrissur Municipality and citizens to reduce pollution and preserve the socio-economic fabric of the city. The Municipal Authority’s keenness to address various forms of pollution along with preserving the socio-emotional fabric of the city led to its development. This park is endowed with diverse play elements ranging from lawns, bicycle tracks, play equipment and an open gymnasium.

Beyond being a good model of multi-generational public space, this greenspace also has the potential to evolve into a space for healing. The city administration aims to shape it as a safe, healthy and inclusive space in the rapidly growing city.

Every shortlisted entrant is doing incredible work to help those most vulnerable affected by crisis and conflict, and the Real Play Coalition recognises every single one. In this category, two winners (one city and one urban practitioner), will be awarded at the Real Play City Challenge on the 18th of November, 2022. Stay tuned to our social media channels to get the latest updates on the award ceremony!