Mmofrasem - The Mmofra Foundation Newsletter
In this issue: Playtime in Africa latest | One year online! | A Juba playspace | The year ahead

Architect Ralph Sutherland and student Emmanual Sarpong at work at the Playtime in Africa charrette
Playtime in Africa
How social media, local talent and you - yes, YOU - helped put our playspace plan in motion

It's been a big year for the Playtime in Africa project, and a difficult one to sum up. But if we had to do it in two words, we'd say 'momentum' and 'collaboration' - key terms for where we are now, and how we got there.

At the start of the year we were working hard on building our local and global networks. We'd set our sights upon a collaborative 'charrette' event in late May, and wanted maximum input. Ideas and support came in from all over the world: some people blogged about us, some sent us sketches and ideas. In the end, some even travelled thousands of miles to Accra for the discussion and design sessions.

In the run-up to May we used social media channels to feed conversations with our supporters. Connections were made on Facebook and Twitter, ideas and inspiration pinned to our Pinterest walls and background reading shared on Delicious.

We spliced that remote input with local professional talent, in an approach that has been dubbed 'frugal international collaboration' (catchy, right?). It meant we had plenty of material to feed into the charrette when May rolled around - and if you're reading this you probably contributed in some way, even if you don't realise it.

By the end of the three-day event, we'd hosted two vital public discussions on open space, play and childhood in Accra, and created a concept plan for our Dzorwulu site with the help of architect Ralph Sutherland and two brilliant architecture students from Ghana's KNUST.

So what happened next? Well, lots more networking. More work on the Dzorwulu plan. Plenty of curation, as we raced to showcase some of the countless thoughts, sketches, photos, documents and reports from the charrette in galleries and follow-up blog posts.

We've also forged a new university partnership to complement our longer-term ties with the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. In October we welcomed half of Design Through Discovery, a six-strong team of masters students from the Technical University of Delft in Holland.

They spent two packed weeks meeting educators, Mmofra members and people from our Dzorwulu community, and somehow found time to blog about it. We're looking forward to seeing what they've come up with in January, when the team completes a strategic proposal for us. Watch this space...

We are participants in the Fiscal Sponsorship Program of the FJC Foundation of Philanthropic Funds in New York City. This enables us to accept tax-exempt donations where it is permitted by law.

The book that started it all

This year marked the 50th anniversary of the photo essay Playtime in Africa, by Mmofra's founder Efua Sutherland and Willis Bell, one of its earliest patrons.

This unique book remains relevant today, and has inspired the PiA project as well as two public exhibitions in Spokane, Washington, USA in collaboration with our new partners Friends of Mmofra (FoMm).

Many pictures from the book are in the Willis Bell Collection Vol 1, produced with FoMm and Ira Gardner in 2012.

One year online!
The year Mmofra went digital

Let's rewind to December 2011. Mmofra has only just got itself a website, and blogging, micro-blogging and content curation are just specks on the horizon.

Over the next 12 months, we threw ourselves into digital media, establishing a fistful of social media profiles and a loyal band of followers. They have become big parts of our work - and more importantly, useful ones.

Mmofra is small, so finding like-minded people to advise or actively work with us really matters. We've found loads online (hello, new followers!), and have been able to inspire them and converse with them too, no matter where they are.

With topics spanning art to zoology and an image-rich format, the Mmofra Blog now boasts some of the most varied original and curated African cultural content for children. Among other things, we've run a series of posts on African poems - including many by our founder, Efua Sutherland - and built up a list of blogs and websites whose style we rather like. Pinterest followers will find inspiring outdoor design from around the world on our page.

I'll be upping the ante in 2013, with some new boards - Anansi Literature, African Lit for Kids, African Lit for Teens and Animated Africa - and some related hashtags to help promote African cultural content on Twitter.

Meanwhile, our ongoing Galimoto! challenge will see a team of young volunteers try to find and pin a self-made toy from every African country.

We're proud of what we've achieved online this year. So join us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Delicious, and let's make our next 12 months online even bigger and better.

Sketch: Children's Pavilion, Juba
Child-friendly world #1
A playspace project for South Sudan

In each issue of Mmofrasem we'll highlight a child-focused project or story that inspires us.

To begin the series we've chosen South Sudanese architect Iduol Beny's Children's Pavilion, a plan for an interactive landscape in Juba, South Sudan, that has strong parallels with our own Playtime in Africa initiative.

Children are low on the political agenda of Africa's newest independent state. Beny's goal is to create a prototype space for play and learning that can be replicated in other regions of the country.

"We believe that South Sudanese themselves must put their children first on the national agenda. As a step in this direction, we propose to create a safe, colorful, interactive playspace in Juba, and to design activities within it that encourage organic thinking and analysis, creative problem-solving, and most of all PLAY!"

Check the Join Us page for details of how you can support the Children's Pavilion project.

The year ahead
What to expect from Mmofra in 2013
  • We'll be unveiling new ranges of greeting cards.
  • Literacy teaching strategies remain a priority for us, and we’ll be looking actively for support to carry on the successful method of our invaluable retired educator Mr. Aggrey-Forson.
  • Our language club sessions will continue to give children memorable experiences in reading, arts, crafts, drama and more.
  • We'll also be recruiting young leaders to help with programs and to bring lots more followers to the Mmofra Blog and Facebook page.
  • We'll be completing our Playtime in Africa masterplan and collecting materials. Key activities will center on planting donated trees and sourcing recyclable wood from uprooted and damaged ones.
  • Our work on the Bell Archive will see us follow up enquiries from museums, archives and art projects in Ghana, Holland, USA and Germany, and establish a 'Friends of the Archive' group in Accra.
  • We expect to strengthen our relationship with our partners Friends of Mmofra as they help us to extend our network of support outside Ghana.
  • With our solid base of knowledge on children, culture and play, we’re often approached for advice, and we’ll continue to collaborate with others working in these areas.
  • Finally, look out for a campaign to preserve the Efua Sutherland Children's Park as a green zone with enormous potential for the city of Accra.

3 ways you can help Mmofra right now

DONATE money, materials, time or skills
Give to us online, or get in touch to discuss volunteering and recycling

PROMOTE our work to your friends and family
Help us win new supporters, volunteers and partners. Every mention helps!

ORDER a copy of the Willis Bell Collection Vol 1
You get a book of iconic Ghana images, we get funds for Playtime in Africa

Mmofra Blog: Featured post

Designing their own future

"Kelvin Doe, 15, is 'DJ Focus' to his loyal listening public in Sierra Leone. This young D.J. knows what he’s talking about – Kelvin is an engineering whiz who goes through dustbins to find the broken electronic parts other people discard...."

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