Boa Vista opens playgrounds in shelters for Venezuelan refugees

Published December 7, 2021

Early childhood-focused public spaces have been launched in three refugee shelters in Boa Vista, with coverage in local media outlet Correio do Lavrado. The Amazonian city is the capital of Brazil’s most northerly state, and is experiencing an influx of migrants from Venezuela – currently the world’s second-largest source of cross-border displacement.

Children playing in the newly opened playground in Pricumã. Photo: Courtesy of Gisela Souza Castro/AVSI Brasil.

The playgrounds are part of Scale-Up Urban95 Boa Vista, a partnership between the Bernard van Leer Foundation, AVSI Foundation and the Municipality of Boa Vista, implemented by AVSI Brasil. The locations for the three playgrounds – Rondon 1, Rondon 3 and Pricumã – were selected based on the number of migrant and refugee families with children. They were opened with celebrations including live music, balloons, popcorn and cotton candy.

“My children enjoyed it a lot,” said Elianys del Valle, manager of the library at the Rondon 1 welcome centre. “I also think it will be good for adults to relax their minds and watch the children play.”

Opening event at Rondon 3. Photo: Courtesy of Amanda Neves/AVSI Brasil.

Before designing the playgrounds, the project asked young migrant children in the shelters about how they like to play. The municipality’s infrastructure team designed the playgrounds to support young children’s cognitive and motor development, with rainbow-coloured visuals, structures such as obstacles, pyramids and tunnels, and different textures including sand, concrete and vinyl surfaces to add sensory dimensions.

The shelters incorporate recycled materials where possible, such as wood, tyres and PVC pipes, and there are also areas for playing sport. As explained on the United Nations website, the playgrounds were designed with the support of the UNHCR and reflect the temporary nature of the shelters.

Playgrounds use recycled materials such as wood, tyres and PVC pipes. Photo: Courtesy of Gisela Souza Castro/AVSI Brasil.

Boa Vista is one of a number of pioneering cities around the world with which the Bernard van Leer Foundation has a multi-year partnership strategy, working with urban planners, architects, engineers and city managers to incorporate a focus on early childhood in city planning and management.

Aerial picture of the public spaces launched at Rondon 1.

The Foundation’s partnership with the city includes support for a range of services to help migrant families integrate into their new home city, including risk analysis and referrals, data management, mobility solutions, improving public spaces, awareness raising, and municipal planning.

You can read more about the Foundation’s partnership with Boa Vista, and the city’s challenges with migration from Venezuela, in former mayor Teresa Surita’s article for last year’s edition of Early Childhood Matters.