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Playgrounds for Peace

It wasn't that long ago when high-school student John Dark enjoyed going to the playground with his friends. When the Jackson, Michigan, teen found out that kids in war-torn Afghanistan were in need of school playgrounds, he decided to do something.

In February of 2004, inspired by his priest's challenge to help the world, Dark began raising $30,000 to buy playground equipment for an elementary school in Afghanistan. “I have seen on the news and read newspaper and magazine articles about how people are trying to rebuild Afghanistan,” he said. “I thought, ‘Now, what does every school need? That's right, a safe playground.’”

Playgrounds are familiar territory for Dark, since his father sells and installs them. Dark and his parents, who are also involved in the project, wanted to donate something they knew, so playgrounds were a natural choice.

So far, Dark has collected $12,000 for his project, called PEAC (Playground Equipment for Afghan Children). To raise funds, he has gone into schools to give talks and show pictures, describing the situation in Afghanistan. He has also sent mailings to churches and businesses, asking for support for the PEAC project.

Dark has teamed up with AmeriCares, a not-for-profit humanitarian organization that will transport the playground to Afghanistan. Then, another group, Help the Afghan Children, will deliver it to the Abdullah bin Omar School in Paghman, Afghanistan.

Dark continues to fundraise for the playground. As more people learn about his project, he hopes to reach his goal, bringing some joy to the lives of hundreds of Afghan kids. Dark said, “We want to give them something to smile about.”