Playgrounds For Peace

Bubbles in war zones...” this beautiful phrase coined by our founder Ania, embodies the very essence of Happy Hearts, which we are setting into motion by launching a revolutionary project to build the first known public playground in war struck South Central Somalia. Happy Hearts believes in a holistic approach to bringing hope and healing to those affected by war, famine and disaster; therefore we see creativity and play as essential in the recovery of trauma and tragedy.

On our first visit to Mogadishu, while visiting some of the countless camps for those displaced by famine and war, the only toy we saw was a wooden AK-47 in the hands of a little girl. At the time, Somalia was the epicenter of reportedly one of the worst famines in recorded history. The depth of suffering etched on each face we encountered is impossible to convey. The startling signs of starvation could be seen everywhere, especially in the vulnerably young. Many were literally dying right before our eyes. Most children were too weak to engage with us, or even meet our eyes. We hesitated in getting out the bubbles we brought with us for the children to play with. To blow bubbles in this place of horror and hopelessness seemed somehow pointless, even irreverent. However, as we started blowing bubbles amidst the ‘shack’ dwellings built on top of bombed rubble, something magical happened…. for the first time we began to see smiles breaking out across the faces of these severely malnourished, traumatized children. Hope began to sparkle in the eyes of the parents as they saw their suffering children express joy, maybe for the first time in months. Soon these precious children found the energy to gather around us and break out into giggles as we taught them how to blow bubbles, (seemingly for the very first time in their lives)! Hope is a free, priceless commodity. It saves lives.

On this same visit, a doctor informed us about the shockingly vast numbers of children that were being admitted daily to a local hospital presenting severe malnutrition and bullet or shrapnel wounds. (These were the ‘lucky’ ones who managed to get access the scarcely available health care). We were even more shocked to learn that many died even though they had received the necessary treatment to survive. In response to our blank, questioning stares the doctor clarified, “they have no hope left to live, so they die.” More than two generations of Somalis have experienced nothing but war, anarchy and suffering. They have no experience of peace and many lack a hopeful vision for their future. It dawned on us that hopelessness literally has the power to kill, as much as a physical disease. Hope is life to our souls, as crucial as the air we breathe is to our bodies. The doctor went on to explain the essential link between the physical environment and its profound effect on creating hope and safety within our hearts. In that moment we determined to build playgrounds as beacons of hope and peace all over a nation that has commonly been referred to as “the world’s most comprehensively failed state” and known worldwide as the most unstable and dangerous country on earth.

We believe that playgrounds are as essential as clean water, clothes, and schools. The need for safe places where those from different backgrounds and clans can find a refuge of fun and celebration during uncertainty is vital for the long-term healthy development of communities, especially ones that have been severely fractured by conflict. Happy Hearts dreams of creating many such safe spaces in conflict zones where families from surrounding communities can safely gather to connect, create, heal, learn and most importantly, PLAY!

Play is a very important therapy for children affected by war and poverty; the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights calls play a ‘human birthright’. The developmental aspect of play is crucial; increasing positive emotionality, concentration, personal-social development, cooperation, verbal fluency, flexibility, originality and imaginativeness. In fact overall higher IQ scores have been proven in using play therapy! In playing, children learn that the world can be a safe place where they can thrive, even within a challenging environment. Happy Hearts believes that the emotional, physical and mental benefits of play are so clear, that safe play spaces are not an optional extra when seeking to rebuild war torn nations; rather they are essential, which is why we believe this project is of paramount importance.

Happy Hearts is partnering with the US based charity “Kids Around The World” to build its first playground. We plan to convert a shipping container in the US into an activity center full of school supplies, crafts, toys, sports equipment and other resources. We are working in conjunction with the government and have already been promised free land! The total funds to build and ship the playground, a basketball court and the HAPPY HEARTS community center are $62,000.

We would love to extend an invitation to you and your organization to join us in taking part in this ground breaking project. You can sponsor a slide, swing or other playground equipment, or host an awareness/fundraising event. Please contact for more details on how to get involved and donate by visiting:

Together we are tackling hopelessness and making hearts happier, one life at a time, in the most dire war and disaster struck places in the world!

THANK YOU for making this possible!