WORLD -- December 15, 2011 at 5:26 PM EDT
'The Kite Festival Has Been Cancelled Due to Civil War'
A bunch of kids are running around outside, screaming and chasing each other, completely caught up in the moment. It's a familiar scene in communities across the United States, but not so much in some of the world's most intense conflict zones.
Patrick McGrann would like to fix that. He's an American who now lives in Gaza. In 2007, he started a non-profit toy company Kitegang to help kids fly kites in refugee neighborhoods in Gaza and Jordan.
The organizing starts long before the kids get their kites, and the workers are all volunteer. Kitegang operates several manufacturing centers mainly in refugee communities. For example in Jordan, a group of Iraqi refugees, who have fled the insecurity of their own country, designs, then manufactures kites, skateboards and yo-yos for children in Sudan, Gaza and Somalia among other places.
The materials and shipping are funded by individual donations and occasional contributions from nongovernmental organizations.
McGrann purposely keeps the organization small and nimble, which he says helps with the flow of ideas. Sometimes those ideas don't work out, he acknowledges. Some less successful endeavors included a women's beach volleyball game in Gaza and a Valentine's Day kite festival in a Yemeni refugee camp during the civil war.
In the latter case, a notice appeared on Kitegang's website: "Valentine's Day in the refugee camps of northern Yemen was cancelled by the Yemeni government due to the civil war.
"We'll keep trying."