Bảo Hoa and Minh Phương
HÀ NỘI — A Vietnamese architect has been named as one of the most influential women in the world by the BBC.
Chu Kim Đức joined the list of the top 100 women of the year for her efforts to build playgrounds for children all across Việt Nam.
She said the recognition from the British public service broadcaster was a remarkable milestone.
“It’s such a surprise, but I also feel honoured and happy,” she said.
This year, the list highlights women who are leading change and making a difference during these turbulent times.
“When they found I'd be named on the BBC list, some friends said to me: ‘Oh, it’s such a difficult job for a woman’,” she added.
“But I don’t think there’s anything women can’t do.
“It's just that sometimes we limit ourselves to what people and society say we can do.
“I hope through this recognition by the BBC, people will understand that a child’s right to play is really important and it’s something we really need to invest in.”
Her social enterprise, Think Playgrounds, was established in 2014. The organisation has built more than 180 free playgrounds for children in inner city areas.
Đức chisels a tree trunk to create playground equipment. The social enterprise she co-founded, Think Playgrounds, has built more than 180 free playgrounds for children across Việt Nam. Photo courtesy of Chu Kim Đức
“When we first started, there weren’t many free playgrounds in Hà Nội,” she said.
“It was very difficult to find a free public playground, one that had proper equipment and was completely free for children.
“After doing some research we found out this would have a very bad effect on children’s development.
“Children need time to play by themselves. Only during free time do they express what they want and need, physically and mentally.”
Đức felt children living in the city needed a place where they could shape their characters by doing physical activity and communicating with others.
She added: “Besides the knowledge they gain at school, children really need a space to play. It is a child’s right to play.
“I hope that Việt Nam will soon notice this right that children deserve to have.”
The group always encourages the community to get involved in designing and preparing playgrounds for children.
“Our thinking is that a playground is a public place so it should involve local people,” she said.
“If people aren't part of building the playgrounds, the connection between a public place and local people is lost.”
Children play at a playground built by Think Playgrounds in Hà Nội's Thanh Xuân District. Photo courtesy of Think Playgrounds
They work with local authorities and parents to design the playgrounds which are suitable with the area.
“We always try to create a story for each playground. That story is based on the area’s culture.
“In Ngọc Hà, we designed a playground with the concept of a pond with frogs because the area has many ponds. People here also have a tradition of working on farms and planting flowers.
“Most of the materials that we use for our playgrounds are recycled and natural materials such as wood and tyres.
“We think these materials have a better impact on children’s senses rather than plastic or iron which are too flat.
“Those materials can provide explorative inspiration for children.”
The group sometimes hold an event called “Playday” which is a place for children to play and immerse themselves in nature.
Đức said: “Our first Playday was held in 2014. It was so fresh and new that it attracted many parents and children.
“The design of the event was unprecedented, and children couldn’t find anything similar to those that already existed in inner city areas.
“Through the event, we understood that children in the city seriously lack a place to play.”
Think Playgrounds expect that more and more playgrounds will be built in city areas, making life better and people happier.
“We will try to renovate our designs to be able to create more creative playgrounds for children.” Đức said. — VNS