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, then 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 5,000 children to play with Lego on a regular basis. There are countless more who would benefit from the same opportunity. Now 11, Micah returned to Uganda for a third time in 2017, bringing with him other American children to help him distribute Lego and share in the eye-opening cultural exchange he experienced.