Gammage Scholars create safe play space for children

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July 6, 2018

Young children at the Child Crisis Arizona now have a clean and safe place to play, thanks to a group of volunteers from Barrett Honors College.

The volunteers were all recipients of the Grady and Katherine Gammage Memorial Scholarship, which requires scholars to participate in service projects that address issues they are passionate about.

From January to May this year, the Gammage Scholars worked with staff at the Child Crisis Arizona emergency children’s center in Mesa to create a play area for the center’s youngest children, from infants to toddlers. The area, attached to the Tiny Tots house, was in great need of a makeover.

Gammage Scholars at childrens shelter 1

Gammage Scholars from Barrett Honors College who created a safe and clean play space for youngsters, left to right, Susanna D'Souza, Ryan Taylor, Sami Stroud, Josh Caballero, Catie Carson, and Tori Froh

The students cleaned up the area, got rid of old and broken items, refurbished shelving to make it safer and more convenient to use, painted the walls - including a section of chalkboard paint for drawing - installed rubber flooring and play kitchens, and stocked the area with items such as sensory bins, toys, and play mats.

Gammage Scholars at childrens shelter 2

Gammage Scholars (left to right) Shiv Shah, Sami Stroud, Catie Carson, and Susanna D'Souza. Not pictured, Ellen O'Brien and Erin Avilucea,

The clean-up was just one volunteer activity for the scholars at the center. In 2017, they helped lead art activities for children at the shelter.

"Being part of the Gammage Scholars has played a huge role in shaping my undergraduate experience. Through the group, I have had the opportunity to work alongside a diverse set of driven, thoughtful students to make an impact in a variety of settings. The projects push us to be creative, collaborative, and flexible. Our project with Child Crisis AZ provided me a great lesson in seeing a project through from beginning to end: from being presented with a need in the community, to working with members of that community to identify ways to address it, to implementing a solution — and having fun as a team along the way!,” said Catie Carson, one of the volunteers.

“I’m proud of what our small team was able to accomplish, grateful to the shelter for letting us work so closely with them, and hopeful that the renovation will make a difference for these children,"  said Carson, who graduated in May with double majors in psychology and justice studies, a human rights certificate and minor in Mandarin Chinese.

We reached out to Child Crisis Arizona to get the organization’s reaction to the students’ work. Here is what Brandi Devlin, marketing and communications manager, had to say.

What is the significance of this project?

Child Crisis Arizona is the only licensed emergency shelter for children ages birth to 10 years old in Maricopa County. Children as young as four days old come to our Emergency Children’s Shelter to be free from abuse and neglect. The babies and toddlers live in our Tiny Tots House and the staff prides itself in creating a warm, welcoming home-like environment. The Tiny Tots House has a small outdoor area where children play and explore. Because our resources are mostly directed to providing care for the children – food, shelter and clothing, and medical and counseling services – the resources available to update our outdoor spaces are limited.

What were the parameters of the project?

The students were tasked with updating the Tiny Tots House outdoor space to accommodate the growing bodies and minds of babies and toddlers. They painted the play space wall with chalkboard paint at just the right height for our little ones to draw on. They installed a rubberized-material flooring surface to create a level and safer play space. They repurposed existing shelving and purchased new items to create an area where children can engage in imaginary and sensory play. The area includes a kitchen set, sensory tables for water and sand play, and other activities. They also provided activity rugs and accessories.

How will this benefit children that are being cared for at your facility?

 We are grateful when community partners like Barrett Honors College students/Gammage Scholars give their time and talents to spruce up our shelter and create welcoming spaces where children can play and explore, and begin to heal and thrive. This updated outdoor space will enable them to develop language, literacy, social and emotional skills, as well as practice their fine motor and gross motor skills. Providing opportunities for children to learn and explore in a safe, child-centered environment helps little ones who have dealt with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) learn to express themselves in a positive manner, build trusting relationships with adults and peers, and develop self-confidence.

Why is it important for university students, or anyone else for that matter, to volunteer?

Children in our Emergency Shelter, through no fault of their own, may have dealt with traumatic situations that many people cannot imagine. When volunteers give a few hours of their time and talent to paint a wall or assemble a kitchen set, they are giving a child a safe space and opportunities to overcome adversity and heal.  It’s vital for our little ones to be in a warm and welcoming environment where they can simply be a child.  As children feel safe and secure, they begin to have positive interactions with their peers and with adults, and built trust and self-confidence.

How do you feel about the completion of this this project?

We are so grateful to ASU Barrett Honors College students/Gammage Scholars for being committed to this project and truly caring about the impact this project would have on the children in our shelter. The students’ time and talents are invaluable, and the materials they provided have made the Tiny Tots outdoor space so much more lively and engaging.  It allows our agency to provide much-needed and enriching opportunities for our children.  




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