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A little Lego can go a long way.

Used Bricks from the developed world change lives in Africa

 

Play Well

"Lego" is derived from the Danish phrase leg godt, which means "play well".

Why let Lego collect dust in your attic when it can help others play well?

Children learn through play. Opportunities to develop creativity and ingenuity at an early age are crucial for intellectual development. Building toys like Lego are a great way to foster the critical thinking skills that Africa’s next generation needs. Unfortunately, many African children don’t have any toys at all and lack the learning tools they need to reach their potential.

Meanwhile, homes across North America are cluttered with stuff. Lego bricks are hard to get rid of. They can’t be recycled. Thrift stores often send them to landfills unless they are in complete sets.

We seek out used Lego bricks and partner with trusted organizations to hand deliver them to educational environments in Uganda, Kenya, and Botswana. There, the Lego bricks sharpen the minds of students through creative play.

Meet the 9-year-old who created Play Well Africa.

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Brick Walk Challenge

Here's how it works: 
1) Take a gallon bag and fill it with Lego
2) Spread the Lego over a 10 foot length
3) Walk across barefoot and try not to cry
4) Post a video along with this text and nominate your friends! Be sure to tag @PlayWellAfrica and #BrickWalkChallenge and set your privacy setting to public

Why would someone do this? Here in the developed world, we have so much stuff. Some of it is awesome stuff, like Lego. But we have much of it that it's often lying around our house. 

You would think the pain and aggravation of stepping on a Lego would be a universal experience, but you'd be wrong. In places like rural Uganda, many kids have no toys or learning tools at all. They have never heard of or seen Lego. 

The Brick Walk Challenge is raising awareness for Play Well Africa, a grassroots nonprofit that provides used Lego and other learning tools to underprivileged families and schools in Uganda, Kenya, and Botswana. If you are nominated for the challenge, you must either accept it, make a video, and copy this post, OR donate $25 or 1 pound of Lego to Play Well Africa: playwellafrica.org/donate

 

Here's an example of an awesome video from our superstar Alicia to get you started!

Our Story

Play Well Africa's mission to turn clutter in the developed world into an educational opportunity in Africa began in a southern California Lego Store. 

Micah Slentz, then 6 years old, begged his dad to buy him an elaborate new Lego set. His dad told him he had plenty of Lego already, and tried to explain that many kids around the world in places like Africa don’t have any Lego at all.

The next time he was at the mall with his father, Micah remembered the conversation and suggested they buy a Lego set and send it to a kid in Africa. At first, the idea seemed kind, but naive. But Micah wouldn't let it go. He kept pestering his father to help him send Lego to Africa. Finally, Micah’s dad started to think, “Why not?” and Play Well Africa was born.

By age 8, Micah had successfully collected hundreds of pounds of used Lego bricks and sent them to Child Africa's school in Kabale, Uganda, and Peace Corp volunteers in Botswana.

When Micah received video footage showing the impact of Lego on the communities he had sent it to, he was incredibly moved and resolved to ramp up Lego collection and fund raising and travel to Uganda himself. As he prepared to make the trip, the video footage was widely shared online and picked up by several major media outlets. Lego donations poured in.

In December 2015, Micah, now aged 9, arrived in the Kumi District—one of the poorest areas of Uganda—with his father and hundreds of pounds of donated Lego. Micah conducted Lego seminars at local schools, hospitals, and orphanages, and supplied Lego for their continued use. He also gave every child he met a small Lego mini-build to take home. Most of them have no other toys.

While doing all he could to help the kids he met in Uganda, Micah’s life was changed as well. He saw how different the lives of these children on the other side of the world were, and yet, how easy it was to relate to them through Lego.

So far, Play Well Africa has enabled more than 1000 children to play with Lego on a regular basis. There are countless more who would benefit from the same opportunity. Micah plans to return to Uganda in the summer of 2016, this time bringing with him other American children to help him distribute Lego and share in the eye-opening cultural exchange he experienced.

Lego is a toy. And a learning tool. And a chance for kids to be kids.

Outlets ranging from International Business Times to Education.com describe the benefits in creativity, problem solving, teamwork, and more that occur in children who play with Lego.

In rural Uganda, most children do not own any toys; many have not ever seen one. Those who are lucky enough to get an education, typically do so in a way that resembles schools in the US more than a century ago. Building and operating these schools is an incredible accomplishment for our partners at Child Africa. We enrich the education they offer through a learning tool they otherwise would not have.

Most of the students we provide with Lego struggle to get enough food. There is a chronic shortage of clean water, food, and medicine in their communities. We are often asked why we don’t focus on these basic needs instead of toys.

There are many charities doing great work to alleviate these needs, and we encourage you to support them. We believe that fostering creativity and critical thinking skills among children directly serves the long term goal of permanent improvements to quality of life in Africa.

Donations often come to us from individuals who otherwise would not be involved in charitable giving to Africa. While many of our donors generously contribute funds, some merely want a useful way to get the bin of plastic blocks out of their attic. Financial donors are often inspired by our unusual approach, or find that our long-term view resonates with them. Many of these individuals would not otherwise be supporting Africa, and some give to us in addition to other African charities. In short, we are confident that the donations we receive do not detract from charities that provide more basic needs, and are simply an additional source of generosity to Africa.

Finally, Lego is a language. Through this toy, African children express themselves in a way that adults and children alike can understand all over the world. We share images African students and their Lego creations in order to promote understanding and connection between nations and cultures.