Growing up in Parks

Growing up in Parks

South Africa
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

South African society is a segregated and violent resulting directly from the historical aparheid regime. People live in fear. Anxiety, obesity, depression, and therapy-based lifestyles are common. The Msunduzi Municipality declared bankrupcy in 2010 rendering public parks convenient dump sites for rubbish. Growing Parks want to change the fearful lifestyle in which families and children are entrentched and clean our city so that we may become a healthier community. We rehabilitate and maintain public parks for the community to enjoy safe, outdoor recreation. We want children and families to have a space to ride their bikes safely and picnic while flying a kite or throwing a frisbee without the fear of being robbed or assaulted. We believe this improves family and community well being.

About Project

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The importance of active recreational activity in disease prevention, health and well being is commonly known. It was, however, exceptionally difficult to get the apathetic, indifferent Msunduzi Municipality motivated.Through sheer perserverence and hard work Growing Parks has managed to uplift the community through revitalizing lost resources that already existed within the community. Although a simple idea, the innovation of this initiative is the successful implementation of the idea. The cost recovery model used in this concept makes it accessible to all financial groups in a developing country and the innovative layout of the park (like the maze made of flora) attracts all ages to frequent the facility. We have also instilled a sense of communal ownership and thus communal responsibilty to maintain the park. We prevent sedentary lifestyle diseases through physical activity and break down social barriers through the universal language of play. Children engaging in social, non competitive play across racial, cultural and religious barriers will cultivate a universal understanding of social norms and heal our broken past. Growing Parks is the only known organisation of its kind in Kwa Zulu Natal which, in itself, demonstrates the foresight of the founders. The strength of the NPO lies in the capable management. The financial manager is a professor of finance and is committed to the sustainablity of the NPO. The chairperson is an Occupational Therapist who is committed to creating value for the public using this facility for community upliftment.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The primary objective of Growing Parks is to firstly clean public parks, removing litter, broken glass bottles and debreis that has been dumped. A clean environment is tantamount to a healthy community. Secondly, we create a developmentally stimulating space with play equipment like trampolines, various swings, bicycle track, sandpit ect. Any equipment that does not require water or electricity is availble to the public free of any costs. This is important to encourage families and children to actively engage in unstructured outdoor recreation. Thirdly, we cultivate the land with indiginous landscaping that people can inteact with, like a maze. The birdlife in Pietermaritzburg has suffered since the commercial development of the bird sanctuary. the polocrosse fields and the royal agricultural showgrounds. Growing Parks hopes to revitalize the birdlife through planting inf=diginous trees and folliage. Fourthly we continually maintain the public park so that the community can integrate the facility into their healthier lifestyle. This is an important element in the prevention of heart diseases, strokes, childhood diabetes, obesity and developmental problems. To sustain the park, management works on a cost recovery basis for any item needing continous water or electricity. Therefore, individuals using the toilets or jumping castles are charged a nominal fee. All other play equipment and facilities that do not use water or electricity are at no cost to the public. Fundraising efforts generally pay the staff and play equipment and indiginous flora are donated privately. The Growing parks innitiative is dually a conservation effort and addresses the root cause of many health problems in South Africa eg anxiety. It's a preventative measure to revitalize lost resources that already exist within the commmunity, reenigineer the park and hand it back to the citizens of Pietermaritzburg so that they may engage in active, outdoor, unstructured activity in a non competitive environment. The safety aspect within and around the park is improved through opening vital communication channels thus fostering active community participation of the police and NPO's like Safe City and Conservation Trust.
About You
Growing Parks
About You
First Name


Last Name


Facebook Profile
About Your Organization
Organization Name

Growing Parks

Organization Phone


Organization Address

town Bush road, Northern Park, Pietermaritzburg

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Tell us about the community that you engage? eg. economic conditions, political structures, norms and values, demographic trends, history, and experience with engagement efforts.

Growing Parks works closely firstly with the Msunduzi Municipality which is an apathetic, corrupt community. Proposals were often lost, meetings were not attended or not documented, and written responses and confirmations of agreements virtually non existent. Over the years we had to do their job for them and send them everything from legislation to certification to land survey and GIS maps. The second community is the general public who tend to overstep boundries with garden staff and cleaners. Growing Parks has established a good repotoire with the local police due to the constant infringement of criminal and violent elements of the community. The safety of workers and the maintenance of the public park against vandals and criminals is largely due to the combined effort of the police service, private NPO's like Safe City that operate locally and Growing Parks. The vital element is clear, frequent, effective communication with important parties working towards a common goal.

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

Growing Parks was founded by a married couple with children. Farhana Vally, an Occupational Therapist, often took her children to the local park over weekends because crime syndicates operated from the park during the week. The park was filthy with waste, litter, broken glass and aggressive vagrants. The play equipment was always broken and often hurt the children. After numorous complaints to the municipal Parks department and always being told "no funds available to clean and maintain parks" the couple decided to do something constructive. Thus Growing Parks was founded in 2006 and after 5 frustrating years the first project has been successfully completed and the municipality now wants to broaden their partnership with Growing Parks. Delapidated parks in various comminities have been identified as feasible projects. The future of Growing Parks is clear and soon we hope to have raised enough funds to create a piece of paradise in every commmunity within the Msunduzi municipality.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

The success of Growing Parks is measured firstly, by the tangible, signed aggreement that was entered into between the Msunduzi Municipality and Growing Parks. The second measure of success is the funds that had been raised and the collaboration between various community sectors and NPO's that support Growing Parks. The third measure of success is the visual improvement of the public park. This includes the aesthetic improvement, the improved quality of the available facilities and play equipment and the increased number of people using the public park. It is estimated that about 700-1000 people visit the park on a weekly basis depending on the weather.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

More than 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Within the next 6 months Growing Parks hopes to have a second tangible, signed document from the municipality allocating more public parks to the NPO for rehabilitation and maintenance.

Task 1

submit proposals outlining the suggested rehabilitation process to the municipality

Task 2

Do presentation to the municipal investment commitee, Executive Commitee and the ward councillors about the proposed improvements to the various public parks

Task 3

get the tangible document signed and submitted to the national govenment for approval

Identify your 12-month impact milestone

The visual improvement of various parks

Task 1

Fundraise for the employment of staff and the improvement of miscilaneous facilities eg toilets, water connection ect

Task 2

request the donations of play equipment and flora

Task 3

do the work to improve the facilities i.e. clean the park, erect the equipment,

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

Over the next three years I foresee Growing Parks becoming a strong partner to many schools and NPO's in the Msunduzi Municipality due to the accessible location of the parks in the various communities. The grounds can be made availble for fundraising innitiatives like fun runs or for training and sporting innitaitves like soccer or athletics programs for schools. The Growing Parks' Honour board in each park will recognise an NPO doing good work in other communities to raise awareness and highlight difficulties in other communities. Strong management capacity ensures future development of Growing Parks although the exact path of development is often guided by the municiaplity. Two other municipalities have already been identified as prospective partners to Growing Parks in the near future.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

A repeated barrier that we have encountered and expect to encounter in the future is racism. Senior positions in many municipalities are often still held by faithfuls of the past regime. Their prejudice is often blatant and we have always found a technical legal route around unnecessary rascist. Another barrier that we expect is work apathy at the municipality. This has improved since our reputation that we have built over the past 5 years precedes us and the municipality is more keen to work with Growing Parks. As our network improves, so too does our efficacy.

Tell us about your partnerships

Growing Parks is partnered firstly with the Msunduzi Municipality who is the owner of the land that we reengineer. The second partnership is with the African Conservation Trust who is committed to rehabilitating the environment. Our third partnership is with the local police service to improve safety in the park and our fourth partnership has been with the NPO Safe City who monitor CCTV cameras around the city. CCTV cameras have been erected in the park and are monitored 24 hours a day by Safe City as an additional safety precaution.

Explain your selections

We use a cost recovery model for the use of facilities that continually need resources like water and electricity. Individuals using the park pay a nominal fee for these resources. Regional government (ie the Msunduzi Municipality) supported us by granting us contractual terms to rehabilitate delapidated public recreational parks. We have partnered with different NGO's/NPO's and the African Conservation Trust to achieve our common goal. Private individuals and businesses donate play equipment, park benches and flora to the park to improve the facility.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

The next three years is an exciting time as our reputation and network is imporving fast through media coverage and especially word of mouth. We already have an offer from the Msunduzi Municipality to broaden our existing partnership, we have identified two other municipalities that we would be able to work with and the capable management team is committed to creating positive change and improving the unique working model so that our community may become healthier.

Which barriers to health and well-being does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.


Limited access to preventative tools or resources


Health behavior change


Restrictive cultural norms

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

Crime and poor service delivery has been the root cause of the sedentary lifestyles and associated diseases. Public parks are neglected resources that have become festering dump sites and crime syndicate strongholds. Working with various partners to re engineer public parks for the community to access effectively utilizes imoprtant resources to change health behaviour through actively engaging and stimulating physical activity like flying a kite or riding a bike. Crime has become a common place restrictive cultural norm. Society has accepted that public parks are dangerous and therefore do not utilize them. Safe public parks changes this mindset and liberates restrictive, fearful behaviour patterns in which communities are entrenched. Healthier behaviour patterns will improve well being.

How are you growing the impact of your organization or initiative?
Please select up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.



Influenced other organizations and institutions through the spread of best practices


Repurposed your model for other sectors/development needs

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

The immediate future will see Growing Parks expanding within the host country through the current Municipality that wishes to expand their partnership with Growing Parks. Once the terms and agrrements have been finalized witht he Msunduzi Municipality NPO's and NGO's will be approached to expand their services along with Growing Parks for the benfit of the communities. Once established within various communities we will repurpose our model to benefit the education sector and assist orphanges and other institutions within the communities that we are able to assist.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Government, NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

The municiaplity has supported us through legal lesgislation and documentation. NGOs and Non Profits have supported us with technical support and important services and money has been donated privately to Growing Parks for staff salaries