In June 2022, almost a whole year after the terrible flood disaster of 14th July 2021, the consequential damage of the devastating mass of water that cost the lives of 134 people is still present. Schools and kindergartens were also affected by the flood disaster. Among them were the children and teachers of the Blandine-Merten-Haus in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, who were temporarily accommodated in containers in the municipality of Grafschaft. Because of the location in the industrial area, there were hardly any opportunities for the children to let off steam outside. So what was missing was a playground. On the initiative of the emergency education department and in cooperation with Kukuk Kultur e. V., we pupils of classes 10, 11 and 12 of the Waldorf School Silberwald took on the construction of a playground.
At the beginning of the project, ideas for possible construction elements for the playground were collected and then realised in small groups. Taking into account the different age groups, we agreed, among other things, on a small locomotive with a sandbox for the younger children and a climbing structure with a bridge, tower and slide for the older children.
On the first day, the foundations were laid. Afterwards, we diligently sanded, drilled and sawed. The corners of the timbers had to be sanded off before they could be used as round and square timbers. For the climbing structure, the uprights – the supporting logs – were sunk into the ground and further stabilising round timbers were installed between them as climbing possibilities. For the bridge, we used a hammer drill to pre-drill holes through which a rope was passed and fastened. We had to take into account certain specifications, such as height of fall and fall protection, and sufficient free space, as well as the distance around or between the individual pieces of equipment, so that the playground would also survive the TÜV inspection.
The bus ride from our accommodation to the playground site took us through particularly devastated areas. We learned first-hand about the touching and shocking experiences and strokes of fate oexperienced by the people in the flood zone.
The days in the Ahr valley flew by. On Thursday evening, the playground was already finished and passed the TÜV inspection the next morning.
At the inauguration ceremony, the joy about the new playground was clearly noticeable among the educators and those responsible, and especially among the children. After the official opening, the children immediately started to play. The cheerful mood and the enthusiasm quickly had a contagious effect on everyone present. At the end of the five days, we were able to go home, happy and satisfied in the knowledge that we had created a beautiful place for the children affected by the floods.
We students really enjoyed building the playground. But not only the construction, the encounters with the local people were also very moving and beautiful. This event, with all the accompanying experiences, will remain in our memories for a long time. And even though the effects of the flood disaster are still present and help and support are still needed, at least the children of the Blandine-Merten-Haus in the municipality of Grafschaft have a place to play again, and thus a small piece of normality in their everyday lives.