Thieves steal playground meant for poor Peruvian children

By March 14, 2011

Peru (MNN) — Playground thieves will get only a few hundred dollars at the expense of a few hundred kids from Peru.

Kids Alive International cares for some of the poorest children around the globe through various housing, schooling, and community programs. Many of these children have been abused or suffered neglect, and all have felt the hunger pains of poverty.

Nevertheless, kids are still kids, and despite what they've suffered, Kids Alive wants the children to maintain a childhood. How? Give a kid a playground, and his or her inner giggle is bound to come out.

Since playgrounds are expensive, Kids Alive workers and volunteers typically refurbish older, unwanted jungle gyms from across the United States to send to underprivileged children across the planet. Kids Alive's Rich Anderson explains how it works:

"We pull these playgrounds out of the ground with all volunteers; even the big heavy equipment is always donated to us (backhoes and things like that). Then we sandblast it with all volunteer labor. That doesn't cost us anything: the sandblasting facility donates that to us as long as we supply the labor. Then, all we have to do is pay for the powder at the powder coater [who also] donates all his labor. Once we add new hardware to this, it literally looks like brand new equipment."

Kids Alive has recently been readying four playgrounds to send to Peru in May. In Peru, the sets will be a blessing to hundreds of kids in Kids Alive's care and from surrounding communities. In fact, they'll actually serve as a ministry tool.

"In any of these communities where we're building a playground this summer–take Pucallpa in the Amazon Rain Forest: this is going to be the only playground in Pucallpa. And consequently, it becomes a kid magnet," says Anderson. More kids equals more opportunities to show the love of Christ and to share the Gospel.

This vision of happy kids laughing and learning about Jesus was temporarily squashed, however, by thieves in Plainwell, Michigan.

"Somebody came and stole all of our aluminum parts. (A lot of these playgrounds have aluminum decks.) So, they essentially rendered one of the very large playgrounds useless."

Anderson says the thieves stole the decks and ramps from one of the playgrounds (pictured at right) while it was being stored on the sandblaster's property. All that is left are poles, slides, and monkey-bars.

Currently, Kids Alive is working on finding a new place to store the remaining playgrounds and is looking for a way to get decks back in time for the May 2 shipment to Peru. Anderson says they have a few options, but it's going to take money, time, and fast hands.

Aside from the troubling nature of stealing the joy of kids who already have next to nothing, one more aspect of the crime has caused many to scratch their heads. The amount of work that went into stealing the decks doesn't seem to fit the payoff.

"Quite honestly, it would cost us a ton of money to fabricate [what was stolen], but [the thieves] weren't going to make a lot of money off of it. They stole maybe 800 or 900 pounds of aluminum from us, so the scrap value would have been about $400 or $450," says Anderson. He says the unfortunate part is: "We couldn't replace it for that. To replace this particular playground would cost maybe $35,000 if you were buying it new."

Kids Alive asks for prayer to get everything in order quickly so the Peruvian children do not need to wait any longer for their highly-anticipated playground. If you think you can help provide funds or a storage space, contact Kids Alive at 1-800-KIDS-330 or through their Web site.

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