Playgrounds are a concept kids in many parts of the world can't comprehend.
On Wednesday, volunteers from Kids Alive International will swoop down on 200 East Park to remove the old playground equipment so children in Kenya can see what a playground is. Once the equipment is removed, the city's Parks Department will put in new equipment as soon as the weather improves.
The city and Kids Alive, which is based in Valparaiso, cooperated on a similar deal a year ago to remove the equipment at Fairgrounds Park. Kids Alive had the equipment refurbished in Michigan by volunteers, and it was shipped to its facilities in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. It was assembled there in February.
"The kids in Haiti were told a playground was coming and it would be really cool to play on, but they had no concept of it," said Rich Anderson, Kids Alive special projects director. "It was the first playground in the city, so, to explain to them what it was, was tricky."
The kids could grasp what a swing was, but a slide and the other features were a different matter, he said. It didn't take them long to get the idea once it was assembled.
"It's always fun to watch how quickly they take to the slide and love it," he said. "The first time they look a little worried, but, once they go down, they get back in line and can't wait to do it again."
Anderson said tetherball is the one feature they never totally get the hang of because they want to play it with their feet, like soccer. Kicking a ball, even a makeshift one made of rags, is what the children at Kids Alive's facilities in Mitaboni, Kenya, enjoy. Or they put wheels on a milk carton and push it around.
The playground equipment from 200 East Park likely will arrive in Mitaboni in January or February after undergoing sandblasting and repainting. It's not scheduled to be assembled until volunteers arrive in June 2014. Shipping is the only cost to Kids Alive, and Anderson said that will be $8,000 or $9,000.
For now, Kids Alive is looking for volunteers to help disassemble the equipment Wednesday. Work is scheduled to start at 8 a.m. at the park, which is on McCord Road between Silhavy and Sturdy roads.