“Where Do The Children Play?” In Natalia Vodianova’s Parks-------
Natalia Vodianova reckons she spends twice as much time working on her Naked Heart Foundation as she does on her modeling, but she couldn’t do one without the other. “I come from nothing, and in going back and helping others, I can show people in need that this world of beauty and glamour is not so far away from them,” she says. The foundation has so far placed 39 playgrounds in Russian cities, the last in Biisk, in the Altai region, where 3,000 people turned out for the opening. “The further out you go, the more misery you see,” says Natalia, “but the more incredible souls you meet.”
Natalia appreciated the therapeutic value of play from her own deprived childhood. “Except,” she says, “I was playing in basements, running in the street unsupervised…” Her parks offer secure facilities for kids, and contracts with local governments guarantee they’re free to all. And despite having to deal with corruption (two instances of people charging to use the parks) and a local indifference to philanthropy, she feels the tide is slowly but surely turning in its favor. Events like the Love Ball, to be held during London fashion week, certainly help. Yusuf Islam, the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens, is among the performers (Lily Allen will be there, too) because he and his song “Where Do the Children Play?” have always inspired her. Hopefully he can also inspire others to contribute the hoped-for million pounds that will build four more parks, too.