|Jeff and Jonathan assemble a playscape|
Baptist Temple recently received a check for $7395 from the Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio to build an inclusive playground on the Southside. Inclusive playgrounds allow children of different ability levels to play together. They can inspire mutual understanding, friendships, and a real sense of community.
Play is an important part of a child's development. It helps them to develop social, physical and problem solving skills. However, children with disabilities often lack places to play. This is especially true in the Southside of San Antonio; an area declared to be a very low opportunity area for children (according to DiversityDataKids.org.) Furthermore, we are in an area identified by the federal government as economically depressed (Eastside Promise Zone). A community survey estimates that there are more than 1000 children with disabilities in Baptist Temple's immediate vicinity (Highland Park).
Social isolation can be more painful to live with than the physical or development disabilities themselves. Many kids with disabilities spend less than two hours a week with their peers outside of classroom. A study by the Odette School of Business at the University of Windsor, shows that 53% of disabled kids have no friends.
Nora Gonzales, mother of a child born missing arms and parts of his legs, remembers her son playing at Respite Care's inclusive playground, “I remember seeing my little boy having a good time. He could explore and excel in his environment,” she said.
Her son, Xavier, is now a 19 year-old college student. Nora attributes his growing independence to services that she and Xavier were able to access. They want that access for other children with special needs.
Everyone benefits. Children who learn to play with children of all ability levels will be more prepared for a diverse work environment. An inclusive playground shows that everyone has value. “[Inclusive playgrounds] are a big step to making the world a more inclusive place,” said Xavier.
The first phase of the playground is complete and features accessible playscapes suitable for children aged two and under. This was was made possible by the Baptist Health Foundations grant plus additional gifts through the Texas Baptist Missions Foundation and from Baptist Temple members.
“We are currently raising funds for the second phase for children age five and up,” said Jorge Zayasbazan, pastor of Baptist Temple.
This phase, too, will include wheelchair access and features for the mobility impaired. “We want all children to feel welcome and included,” said Zayasbazan