Playground of her dreams
CHILDREN in a Thai village will no longer have to spend their playtime in an empty schoolyard thanks to a Mt Albert man’s generosity.
Mike Leonard and his seven-year-old daughter Jydee are heading to Thailand next week to build playgrounds for a school and preschool in the small village his late wife came from.
Prapaporn Unnawong, who was known to friends as Pon, died of cancer in June at the age of 40.
The family visited Mrs Unnawong’s village in 2007 before she was diagnosed and Mr Leonard says he will now fulfil her dream of building a playground for her old school.
Before her death, Mrs Unnawong worked at Auckland Girls Grammar School’s childcare centre, where she made a lasting impression, says workmate Jane Archer.
Miss Archer says her colleague was a “baby whisperer” who was a natural at understanding the needs of the youngsters she cared for.
“She was a great cook and really kind and gentle and caring.”
In honour of her friend’s memory, she and friend Louise Guy will also travel to Thailand and help Mr Leonard build the playgrounds.
Mr Leonard says the village, near the Mekong River, has a school which has a single building, but no playground.
He says when the family travelled through rural areas in Thailand, he didn’t see any playgrounds.
He initially looked at building plastic playgrounds but it was too expensive, so he decided instead to model the design off the playgrounds at Freemans Bay School, which Jydee attends.
They will be made from heavy-duty wood and rope and designed so lots of children can use them at the same time.
Mr Leonard is financing the project himself and trying to do some fundraising. He will buy all the hardware in New Zealand and Thai Airways has given him an extra luggage allowance.
He hopes the local people will get involved in the project and it will encourage other schools to follow suit.
“It’s not something that has been recognised but sooner or later it will and they will all start building playgrounds,” he says.
He and Jydee leave for Thailand on September 15.
The playgrounds will comply with New Zealand safety standards. Anyone interested in making a donation towards the playgrounds or learning more about the project can contact Miss Archer on 373-5734.
Playtime: Mike Leonard and his daughter Jydee are going to build playgrounds in Thailand with friends Louise Guy, left, and Jane Archer to fulfil the dream of Mike’s late wife and Jydee’s mum, Prapaporn Unnawong, inset.