Religious Youth Service

"Fixabroko" - Repairing the Broken in Suriname through Religious Youth Service

“Years after the military revolution, the children of Het Centrum, Brokopondo, can play again; thank you RYS for choosing Brokopondo.” These were the words of Brokopondo’s Mayor, Verno Pryor.

Twenty-one Religious Youth Service participants went to the most beautiful district in Suriname, Brokopondo, from August 15-26, 2008, to do a project we called “Fixabroko” (repairing the broken). In the interior of Suriname, Brokopondo is the site of a large reservoir and is noted for its scenic waterfalls and the diversity of its rainforest. After clearing 28 years of bush and debris from the war-torn community of Brokopondo, an abandoned playground was discovered. The group also cleared a path to a multipurpose court which had also been abandoned since the time of the military coup in 1980 and the civil unrest involving the Maroons (descendants of former African slaves) and Native Indians.

The participants were divided into two groups to make the work flow evenly. After clearing the bush at the playground with weed whackers and machetes, one group cleaned all the rusting park equipment with sandpaper and then applied a coat of metal primer paint. Before the swings were done, children from the community began flocking in, waiting to help, but most of all they wanted to play on the unfinished playground.

The children brought water to the participants as they worked and sweat. From time to time they would push a wheelbarrow of dirt or move some debris. Members of the community also streamed in to assist with clearing and cleaning, and they brought biscuits to share with the participants. Altogether, about six tons of sand and dirt were moved, holes were filled, and all the bushes which separated the playground from the community were burned.

The other group, aided by one participant’s father (who became the weed-whacker teacher and the hardest worker) together with the children, helped reclaim the multipurpose court. During this project participants removed, straightened, and replaced rusted and misshapen basketball and volleyball posts. Then the posts were sanded and primed. The girls climbed to the top of the basketball equipment and painted the backboards bright yellow and the posts green. The volleyball posts were also done in green. The basketball/volleyball court was marked out and painted, the word “Brokopondo” was written in one of the goal circles, and RYS and Suriname logos were also drawn on the court.

When all the holes in the playground were filled, the park equipment was painted in the bright Suriname colors of red, green, yellow, and white. Participants, children, and community members completed this massive task in six days. Concerned that the work might not get completed, a few participants never took a break but just continued to work in the hot Suriname sun. The mayor and the community made a pledge to manage and maintain this playground and the multipurpose court.

On the last work day we could feel that community hearts were healed toward one another (despite language, race, religion, or culture). The basketball court will be used by the Suriname national basketball champions the, Yellow Birds, from Paramaribo to train and recruit young men and women from Brokopondo. This is a big step towards the unity of Suriname. The Yellow Birds will travel from Paramaribo to Brokopondo, a clear sign of healing a war-torn community.

The mayor and citizens were unable to find adequate words to say thank you to RYS as our group departed Brokopondo, so they gave each participant a traditional African “Pangi” dress.

The word “Fixabroko” took on special meaning inasmuch as RYS not only repaired an abandoned playground, but played a critical role in helping to heal old war wounds and in inspiring the community.

Click here to read participant reflections.

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