A playground at St Paul’s primary school in Whitechapel (East London) that caters for 55 three-to-five year olds was revitalised as part of a project by Splash Projects in the first week of November 2020. The area is key to the development of the Early Years children at St Pauls, with many living in nearby high-rise flats with no alternative outdoor space. Sadly, many of the playground’s structures had been closed off by inspectors a while ago and there was a notable drainable issue. By working to revistalise the playground, volunteers from the London-based data consultancy DTSQUARED were given an invaluable yet safe way of reconnecting with each other after months of working from home.
At the start of the project, this is what the playground looked like:
Splash’s designer Andy Yau developed an ambitious set of drawings and the challenge was to remove the old playground and build the new one in just one week. Five Splash Projects staff worked on the project all week supported by local entrepreneur and benefactor Harry Hill and his son Rupert. And then on the Thursday (5th November) the group were joined by 27 energetic volunteers from DTSQUARED.
With Lockdown 2.0 announced just days before the project kick-off, the team wondered if it would be possible to go ahead. However, it was agreed we would be operating completely within Government guidelines. The project combined both construction and volunteering – both of which have special exemption status within the lockdown rules, and the project is for a school – and all educational establishments remain open in lockdown. Alastair Brown, Executive Chairman at DTSQUARED said:
“We talked about whether our project is essential. Our conclusion was that with a lockdown it is more essential than ever. Many of the children at St. Paul’s Whitechapel don’t have gardens and outside space at home. Getting this playground back in action in time fo the second lockdown is a very special contribution from us at DTSQUARED.”
Our top priority was to keep everyone safe, so the project was conducted entirely outdoors with social distancing arrangements. The Whitechapel site was awash with hands sanitiser, masks and gloves. It is fairly a big area and the project was designed to be completed safely despite the number of volunteers involved.
Mel Jenner, Chief Operating Officer at DTSQUARED said:
“We have been looking forward to doing a major project with Splash for St Paul’s Primary School early this year and were disappointed Covid-19 delayed our plans. Being able to get started this year and help get the children into the fresh air is fantastic.”
Anna Maltzoff, Business Development at Splash said:
“We’re delighted DTSQUARED staff gave up a day and are extraordinarily grateful for their help in getting this project over the line. Their staff have been working from home since March, so the day at St. Paul’s has given them a covid-safe way of reconnecting with each other, rebuilding trust and improving teamwork across the organisation – whilst also supporting a local school.”
As well as providing a valuable revitalised play area for the children, the volunteers involved in the project benefitted too.
Simon Poole, Splash’s Managing Director, said:
“Knowing they are helping others, particularly children, really drives volunteers on. They learn all sorts of valuable lessons about themselves, about successful leadership, influencing others and team dynamics. Above all, we hope they realise the difference they can make.”
The work at St. Paul’s School has being split into two phases. This first phase, rebuilding the Early Years playground, was sponsored by Harry Hill and his friends, and supported by charity and social business Catch22. The next phase, due to take place in early 2021 – involving the creation of a farm area for the school – will be sponsored by DTSQUARED. “Next time, we want the whole company involved.”