Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Student designs toy to help former child soldiers recover

PlayGarden drum Image copyright Bethany Frank
Image caption The PlayGarden has been used to help children in the Congo rediscover the joys of play

A Scottish student has created a toy to help former child soldiers recover from the stresses of war.

Edinburgh Napier product design student Bethany Frank created the PlayGarden to help traumatised children.

The toy is a simple, colourful set of cylinders which can be used in a variety of ways.

Former-child soldiers, helped to escape by aid workers and now in full-time education, helped shape the design of the toy.

'Ready to learn'

Charity Justice Rising trialled the product in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it was a hit with youngsters displaced by conflict.

Image copyright Napier University
Image caption Bethany Frank said she wanted to help young people who had been involved in conflict

Ms Frank, 21, said: "The DR Congo is an active war zone so I was interested in how a safe haven could be created for young people whose childhoods had been taken from them - who fall asleep to the sound of gunshots in the air.

"My research showed that play was so important to the process of making people feel safe and not back re-living the trauma."

She added: "Spatial awareness games have also been shown to dramatically reduce flashbacks in post-traumatic stress disorder sufferers, and that all influenced my design."

The PlayGarden's design was hailed by Lisa Hall, a Scot working with the Justice Rising team in DR Congo.

She said: "At first they looked confused; then one after another the children began beating the cylinders like drums, something they know.

"My colleagues demonstrated jumping from one to another and the children copied. Then one started rolling a cylinder and others ran around them.

"The next hour and a half we watched with joy as they began to learn to play."

Image copyright Bethany Frank

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