Rotary saving the environment one playground at a time

Rotary volunteers from several clubs help out in harvesting and packing the play equipment. Pictures: STEWART CHAMBERS. 309841_01

By Mikayla van Loon

Each year for the last five years or so, Rotary club members from the outer east have been helping salvage unwanted playgrounds to recycle and send overseas.

And the most recent collection has just been bundled into a shipping container in Kilsyth South ready to send across the ocean to a small island off the coast of India.

“In this shipment we have put 14 playgrounds and then one spare swing set, so it’s about 770 pieces all together,” Rotary Overseas Relocated Playgrounds Project (RORP) Coordinator Bob Allardice said.

“So these are being sent to the Rotary Club of Port Blair, in the Andaman Islands on the east coast of India.”

Every year Mr Allardice said local councils replace about five per cent of their playground stocks, so instead of them going to landfill, Rotary has partnered with many councils to collect unwanted equipment to be reused in disadvantaged countries.

“In Victoria it’s probably over 170 that we’ve harvested and we have actually shipped 149 of those and we’ve sent them to places like East Timor, two containers to Fiji this year, the one in India now.

“A couple of years ago, we sent a couple of containers to Nepal so we sent 10 playgrounds there and we even sent one playground early in the scheme to Tanzania, in Africa. We’ve sent them all over the place.”

While some people have been lucky enough to travel to these countries to visit the locations where playgrounds have been reinstalled in villages and towns, Mr Allardice said he hopes to travel to Fiji next year both as a holiday and to witness the rescued playgrounds in the flesh.

In the meantime, videos and photos of the children enjoying the new play equipment has to suffice.

Thinking ahead to next year, Mr Allardice said RORP already has at least 20 playgrounds which will need harvesting prior to June that will eventually be sent somewhere overseas.

Combining efforts everywhere from Whitehorse, Yarra Ranges, Darebin, Cardinia, Casey, Mornington and council areas down towards Geelong, many Rotarians from across the state are working to reduce unnecessary landfill waste for the benefit of children.

“We’re all there to help the kids who are less fortunate than our kids. I know there are kids in Australia that are less fortunate as well but they’ve got access to reasonable resources most of the time, one way or the other. Overseas, they certainly don’t,” Mr Allardice said.

“This is a way of bringing joy and education and community spirit to places overseas. So it’s a very worthwhile course.

“We hope to show what Rotary can and does do and encourage people to join Rotary to further the aims of it and have a lot of fun.”