Safe space for all

I noticed a small boy playing in the dirt with the garbage that had fallen from the bins. He was behind the building of my youth center, in an empty lot. Next to him, his father talked on his phone not paying attention.

I was cleaning the youth center to get it ready to open to the community. We have a small garden, but there’s no place for children to play. In fact, I’ve noticed there’s no safe park or playground for children in this neighborhood.

Although Timisoara is a city with many parks and playgrounds there is a lack of those in our neighborhood. “That’s not fair!”I remember thinking as I watched him play, and his father ignore him. Every child should have a safe space, as I had one in my hometown, to be just that, a child. He’s living in a European country and he doesn’t have the opportunity to play in a safe space.

Maybe he would pick up a piece of broken glass from the piles of garbage he was playing in and hurt himself. Maybe he would get sick. We were cleaning up the neighborhood anyway, but this lot was a bigger project than I imagined.

It took us three days to clean all of the garbage from the lot. We wore masks to keep from smelling the old cat food and the piles of garbage. My goal is to turn this lot into a beautiful playground where the children can play. But It’s not my neighborhood, and I will go home in a year.

Maybe the elderly here want better sidewalks, maybe the mothers want speed bumps in the streets to slow the cars down. I want to ask the neighbors what they want, encourage them to care for their community, and to help them bring the changes they want, if I can.

I hope that with the addition of the youth center in the neighborhood, people will start to feel pride. And hopefully more positive change will come… and the children won’t have to play in the dirt again.

Author: Maria Eftychia Tselepi

This digital story has been realised within the European project “Stories Behind the Cities”, founded by Creative Europe Programme, European Commission.