DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — Very few Palestinians could have imagined that old tires, wooden electric poles or other discarded household items could be used to make a children's playground — until the creation of Hakoura Park.
The 2,000-square-meter (21,500-square-foot) park is the first and only one made of recycled materials in the Gaza Strip. It was established by NAWA for Culture and Arts Association in Deir al-Balah, a city 14 kilometers (9 miles) south of Gaza City, in early July 2016. The park opened to visitors in December, welcoming the city’s children and parents, schools and educational institutions free of charge.
The park's facilities are made of old household items and factory waste: seats are made of old painted tires, benches and swings are made of recycled wood and old minibuses were painted in bright colors to make a playroom and a library. Plastic bottles and fabrics donated by local residents were used to create toys and dolls.
Salem Ghanam, the park's manager, told Al-Monitor, “We wanted to spread the culture of recycling and show that we can repurpose domestic waste. We decided that this could be a good opportunity to raise awareness among [the park’s visitors] on how to turn the items we discard into something that could benefit society and be less harmful to the environment."
He said, “The main objective of the park is to teach and help people reuse and recycle waste,” noting the aim is twofold: to preserve the environment and to make use of old, damaged or unwanted objects.
“For instance, we gathered and recycled old tires. We painted them and arranged them as seats for the children. We also used wooden electricity poles to make the swings and old tiles for the floor of the park in a beautiful eye-catching way,” Ghanam said.
Workshops are organized to teach housewives how to sort through the garbage and identify what can be recycled. Visitors can bring their domestic waste and deposit it in wooden bins in the park.
“People usually put in the bins plastic bottles, food cans, newspapers, threads and fabrics, all of which we sort through and reuse. Plastic bottles are used to make plastic toys and models, while threads and fabrics are used for stuffed toys for the children,” Ghanam said. He added that he and his team watched tutorials on YouTube on recycling to get ideas on how discarded items can be reused.
Ghadir Abu Musbeh, a member of the team, told Al-Monitor, "We are always looking for new and unique ideas to [recycle] waste and try to bring joy to the visiting children. I watched tutorials on how to make stuffed toys with fabrics and wool threads, which I then distributed to the children visiting the park to encourage them to start recycling too. This also sends a message to their parents about the importance of sorting and recycling garbage.”
“Hakoura Park is different from any other park in Gaza in the sense that it has a team that watches over the children who play in the park. The supervisors make sure they are safe while they take part in recreational and educational activities as well as workshops. We also have a library made of an old bus, which we painted, where the children can enjoy the donated books,” she said.
Visitor Umm Ahmed Madoukh told Al-Monitor, “I used to throw away cans, newspapers and plastic bags. After visiting the park with my children, I make sure to sort through the garbage and send what could be recycled to Hakoura Park.”
She added, “I used to worry that my children might hurt themselves when they went to play in parks. However, in Hakoura Park, I am reassured with the presence of a team of professionals who supervise the children.”
Zahr Qassem, 7, told Al-Monitor that she loves the park. “It is very beautiful. I spend a lot of time here with my siblings and friends. Activity leaders teach us how to recycle and sort through waste,” she said.