Christmas with AIP
Earlier in the year, the Australian Institute of Play met a local community group called Kingston East Neighbourhood Group (KENG) and we talked about an amazing play opportunity which was happening once a week in Loganlea. Each Wednesday afternoon a group of between 6 and 18 children often come to hangout without any parental engagement.
KENG described The Hangout as "a place in the community for children to simply interact with one and other in a safe, nurturing, and caring environment. There is a great sense of family and togetherness in this group. Good old fashion games are played weekly at the local park and adult (staff and/or volunteers) interaction in welcomed by the children".
A week before the Christmas party, KENG had done an incredible job of organising food and a small number of toys to be donated by local business. They had been unable to secure some of their bigger Wishlist items for children, such as scooters, balls and other prized play items.
The other Australian Institute of Play board members unanimously decided to purchase these bigger presents for the children. Amongst the gifts were scooters, balls, Lego, foam blasters, craft, games and other individually requested items.
There were over 15 children present at the Hangout Christmas party, the ages ranged from 3 to 15 with girls and boys present. Everyone got a full meal of roast chicken, mashed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, peas, carrots, and pavlova for desserts.
After dinner, we borrowed a basketball from local teenagers, and all played at the basketball courts for half an hour - any adult attempts to play were quickly thwarted by the much more skilled and competitive children.
Santa then visited and gave gifts to all the children. The children excitedly tore into their gifts and then carefully tucked their nicest away. I saw a young boy fist pump, a girl softly "ooo" at her new gift that she wouldn't put down, and I saw children sharing a hula hoop (before the wrapping paper was even entirely off).
During dinner, I was repeatedly told that these kids were putting on their best manners. The staff share their general experience of the Hangout and share that it is a place which starts with good intentions that often fade quickly. I was told that these children are experiencing many hardships and the Hangout is one of the few good things in their lives.
AIP plan to meet with KENG again to see if there are more synergies with AIP. We believe that the Hangout has synergies with our missions, and we hope to support their future efforts.