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Finding Empowerment and Purpose Through Play | The Power of Play

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Carol Walton

group of children with man looking at a phone

The Power of Play is a Vancouver-based grassroots nonprofit organization building playgrounds with the mission of creating safe and fun spaces for kids in low-income communities and refugee camps. The team works mainly with orphans, survivors of sex trafficking, child-soldier survivors, and children forced into marriage. At the heart of their work is a desire to help traumatized children explore joy and creativity and give them space to experience childhood. 

Play is an integral part of developing a child’s social and cognitive skills while helping maintain their mental well-being. CEO and founder of The Power of Play, Reza Marvasti, shared some details about the essential but often overlooked value of play: 

“Our work is around children’s mental health. And the way we do it is through building sustainable playgrounds. Play is viewed as a luxury in some places, but it has such a vital role in a child’s development. That’s how kids socialize and connect with their peers. That’s how cognitive learning is developed, so they can do well in the academy (school) to learn.” 

Reza’s story

Reza grew up in Iran during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. During this time, he recalls how he tried to help ease the situation for his cousins: 

“The first six years of my life were during the Iran and Iraq war. We used to get bombed, and I remember going to my aunt’s bunker and hiding there. We’d turn the lights off and tape the windows in case they shattered. We’d all hide under the table in case the roof came down. During this time of darkness and fear, I would play hide and seek with my cousins.” 

From an early age, Reza recognized that playing hide and seek with his cousins aided them in taking their minds off the traumatic stresses they were experiencing daily. He told us that playing may have helped him avoid having PTSD and shared that, unfortunately, some of his friends still live with the effects of the trauma. His childhood experience was a motivating factor in his creation of the Power of Play years later.

A happy little boy sits on a bicycle made of tires.

Empowering children and communities

The Power of Play has a team of volunteers, willing community members, and children who help design and develop the playgrounds. Reza shared, “When the playgrounds are built, the kids have pride in their faces. It’s really good to give them a voice.” The playgrounds are built with 50% upcycled materials to help teach sustainability. In the coming months, the team will start building playgrounds in Morrocco, Zambia, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Afghanistan and reaching new areas in need. 


The Power of Play is currently seeking an onsite Playground Construction Project Manager for an upcoming project in Lytton, BC, Canada. There are also other volunteering opportunities that can be found on their volunteering application form. Click here to learn more and to join their team.


Do you want to help the youth in your area or remotely? Explore this and other great volunteering opportunities on Idealist.

Carol Walton profile image

Carol Walton

As Program Manager of the Idealist Action Incubator, Carol offers guidance and support to our community of action-takers.