Leapfrog is a dangerous gameRich Stigall
Hide and Seek. Freeze Tag. Red Rover. Duck, Duck, Goose. We all have our favorite children’s games. Most of the time we play, we end up laughing, smiling, and feeling good. However, sometimes in the Third World, we play games with children that aren’t so harmless, like Leapfrog. Not the Leapfrog where one puts their hands on the back of the person in front of them and does their best Calaveras County impersonation. That’s fun! The dangerous game of leapfrog begins when Americans, often wanting to help, build a First World children’s facility in a Third World community. This leapfrog, which propels the children inside the wall to a standard of living far above their peers, creates many, negative and unintended consequences.
Parents, living in such tough conditions, will do most anything (including abandoning their children) to get them into the good life inside the wall. While this splitting of the family seems foreign to us, it’s not all that different than some choices people make here in America to get their children into the best schools and programs. Once inside the wall, children have very little incentive to reintegrate back into their community as young adults to help make it better. A type of reverse discrimination can develop, where kids living in the children’s home actually begin to look down on children living in the community. Finally, when a first world children’s facility is developed, the chance of the third world, local church ever really being able to own and operate it is but a pipe dream. It’s easier to make payments on a Ford Escort than an Escalade. The fate of a Cadillac facility is to exist in perpetuity on First World aid, zapping incentive and fostering entitlement.
Such was the conversation I had recently with a Godly lady I had the privilege of serving with in Haiti. She shared with me that she was really bothered by living conditions on the villages we visited, right down to the rudimentary tools used to give the children hair cuts. She understood the children weren’t burdened with our first-world expectations. She also realized this is a slippery slope. First electric hair clippers, then maybe air conditioning, indoor plumbing, tile floors, English classes, and violin lessons. All seem good…until we realize, we’re now playing Leapfrog — the dangerous kind.
Coming alongside the local church; letting them lead; expanding their capacity to care for orphaned and abandoned children; providing shelter, education, and care at culturally-relevant standards; creating jobs, sharing the Gospel, and trusting God for the results….that’s His Call for GO Project. It’s actually much harder than playing Leapfrog and change appears to come more slowly, but we believe it is a lasting change – the eternal kind.