America (MNN) — Schools all over West Michigan are donating playgrounds for
children in third-world countries through Kids Alive International.
idea started a couple of years ago on a missions trip coordinated by Mission Network
News' sister ministry, Way.fm. A
Christian ministry in Honduras asked for a playground, and a public school donated
one. Volunteers sandblasted it, packed it into a container for Honduras, shipped it, reconstructed it, and dedicated it to be a blessing to children for
decades. Team leader Rich Anderson knew he
wanted to do it again.
kids] thought that they were at an amusement park, and they were screaming like
they were on a roller-coaster when they were going down a slide or on a swing,"
he remembered later. "They'd never done
this before. And I just thought,
'Wow! This is the coolest thing I've ever
done in my life.' What do I do with this?"
Anderson works with Kids Alive and has a dozen more playgrounds lined up to be
torn down and sent overseas this year. Two
will go to the Dominican Republic in August, two will go to Peru in June, and
two will go to Guatemala in 2011. The playgrounds
will not only help restore the joy of childhood for children who have survived homelessness,
poverty, or slavery, but they also draw kids in to hear the Gospel.
lot of our playgrounds will be going to Christian schools and care centers. And our hope is that
they are going to be a magnet to pull more kids to the care centers," he
explained. "Kids are going to want to
come to that care center because that's where the school playground is, and
when they do come, they're going to hear about Jesus, because that's one of the
things that we do there."
a school would have to pay $3,000-$4,000 to have an old playground
removed. With the help of a donated
backhoe, Kids Alive volunteers remove the playground for free. Next, a sandblasting facility allows
volunteers to sandblast the playground equipment after-hours. It then gets powder-coated with the
same substance used for football stadium seats.
This coating should allow the playground to last for 20 years or
Kids Alive works with a
playground contractor to make sure each playground is built safely. "We want stuff to be built right," Anderson
said, so the playground could even serve future generations. "One of the hardest parts is keeping the kids
off of it until the cement cures, because they want to play on it right away,
as soon as they see it going up."
Anderson encourages volunteers,
if they can, to be a part of the process from the beginning to the end — from tearing
it out from its original home to dedicating it to the Lord in its new
very rewarding because you get there, and there's nothing. And when you leave,
there's this beautiful playground structure," he explained. "And you're actually dedicating it and
watching kids play on it before you leave, so it's really, really cool."
are many ways you can help bring a playground to children in the Third World,
including volunteering to labor in the U.S. or overseas, or providing financial
support. You can also pray for the
spread of the Gospel through the playground ministry. Anderson requests prayer particularly for the
process of shipping playgrounds overseas.
sticky wicket is always the shipping process, because you never know when
you're working with a third-world government if they're going to let that
container go right through, or if for some reason they're going to hold it up. We
don't pay bribes, so sometimes those
containers can sit in port for a really long time, and that equipment has to be
there before your team gets there to install it."