When I was a kid at Lincoln Elementary School in Vancouver, Washington, I preferred the monkey bars during recess and would frequently hang there, often upside down, watching my classmates jump rope while chanting some rhythmic rhyme. In that pre-modern universe it was only girls that jumped rope, of course. Any attempt by a boy would quickly be rebuffed. That’s fortunate, because the few times I surreptitiously tried it I was a miserable failure, inevitably feeling the fatal sting of the rope on my ankles as I ascended or descended at the wrong time. So I didn’t do it. I just watched.
I continue to be a voyeur of jumping rope. Instead of hanging from the monkey bars, this time I use one of the cameras hanging around my neck to capture images of kids jumping rope (“skipping rope” for you Brits) all over the world. Indeed, someone has probably written their master’s thesis on globalization and jumping rope. There’s at least one international organization that promotes it.
Since I often hang out in sad places, I’m constantly surprised and encouraged by how play tempers despair, how friendly competition, not to mention coordination, represents a victory for human spirit in the midst of violence. So in tribute to kids the world over who jump rope, here are some images of a truly globalized way of playing.
That image, captured in an August visit to Haiti, shows girls in a model resettlement village constructed by the Lutheran World Federation in Gressier. The settlement houses 150 families who were left homeless by the 2010 earthquake, and represents an intentional effort to “build back better,” creating a sustainable and democratic community.
It’s not always girls who jump rope. The next image shows a boy in Suto Orizari, Macedonia. Located just outside Skopje, it is Europe’s largest Roma settlement. It could obviously use a “build back better” project.
Now let’s see the action in India, Kenya, and Cambodia.
And now East St. Louis and Timbuktu.
And let’s see how they do it in the Philippines and Thailand.
In the miserable camps for displaced families in the Darfur region of Sudan, children have no hope of leaving, but they can escape for a moment in place.
Here are images of children skipping rope in the Makpandu refugee camp in Southern Sudan, where more that 4,000 people have lived since 2008 when the Lord’s Resistance Army attacked their communities inside the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The third image includes Sister Margaret Scott, a New Zealander and member of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions, who’s a member of Solidarity with South Sudan.
And here are some kids, refugees from the government bombing of the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile areas of Sudan, who have fled with their families to refugee camps in Maban County in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State. I pray they may soon be able to jump rope at home.