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Taylor Weidman
Children play on a merry-go-round that generates power for LED lanterns, which makes it possible for the kids to read in the evenings.

OREM — Ben Markham's world is whirling these days.

Playworld Systems, a leading manufacturer of playground equipment, has announced an exclusive partnership with Empower Playgrounds Inc., Markham's nonprofit organization dedicated to putting the innovative, kid-powered merry-go-rounds into villages throughout Ghana and the world.

"Ben's mission to help the children of Ghana through the combination of play and light is deeply inspiring," said Matt Miller, the CEO of Playworld Systems. "We believe play and education are both vital to the human experience, regardless of geography, age or ability.

"We're ecstatic to work with Empower Playgrounds to help enrich the lives of others in such a profound and innovative way."

The "whirls," as Markham calls them, invite kids to play, ride and push the circular base, thus generating power for rechargeable lanterns the children use for doing homework.

After serving in Ghana with his wife as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Markham came home determined to help the village children who had little or nothing in their educational world or in the way of play equipment. The children worked on family farms during the daylight hours.

Markham, a retired ExxonMobil engineer, devised the simple merry-go-rounds to serve a dual purpose. They would provide a rare piece of play equipment and generate power for the LED lanterns (developed by Energizer Battery Inc.) loaned to village children who excelled at school.

"Enabling students to study and read at night is a life-changing development for families living in isolated areas of Ghana," Markham said.

"Working with Playworld Systems to develop and install new whirls allows Empower to bring light to more villages in Ghana and beyond at a much faster rate than we would have been able to on our own."

Approximately 3,000 children now have access to the whirls, installed by Markham's organization in the most remote and deprived villages. Two prototypes manufactured by Playworld Systems were recently installed.

By 2012, the systems will be available to developing nations across the globe at no cost to the villagers.

Markham will blog about the cause on www.playbyplayworld.com.

For more information on Empower Playgrounds, Inc. log on to www.empowerplaygrounds.org.