Safe Parks: A Weekly Haven

 Safe Parks is a new Power of Love weekly initiative started in June 2011. We recognized the need for this tool for children in our pediatric HIV/AIDS care program as they needed a safe place to play, interact with peers, and spend more time with our youth care workers, especially in instances when the child may need counseling or is experiencing problems at home.

We introduced the Safe Parks program to address the emotional, mental, and spiritual health challenges faced by children living in the Matero compound in Lusaka, Zambia. Safe Parks is available at no cost to all children in the community. Our trained healthcare staff plays games with the children and provides help with homework, allowing them to assess the physical and mental health of the children and provide guidance to parents. At present, there are more than 700 children enrolled, and 80-90 participate each week. Our goal is to create a comfortable environment for the children to discuss their status, interact with peers, and build an open and honest relationship with our child and youth care workers, so that we can identify those children that may need special attention and guidance. Safe Parks helps children become more accepting of their HIV positive status and diminish the stigma of living with HIV/AIDS. We also provide HIV education and other counseling services during this weekly program.

Safe Parks typically meets on Saturday mornings. As we wait for all the children to arrive, they have some time to play and interact with each other. The child and youth care workers then lead the children in group games or activities that promote learning and positive values. Afterwards, the kids are split up into their respective age groups and participate in more activities. At this time there is an opportunity for more one-on-one care worker and child interaction.

This program has met with great success. Each week about 80-90 children participate alongwith friends and family members. We have also received excellent feedback from parents and caregivers, who appreciate the extra support we show these families and children.

Watch for our future blog post to learn some of the weekly games and activities we use at Safe Parks!

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