“Safe Parks” is a program that is free and open to all children in the community that addresses some of the challenges faced by children living in the Matero compound in Lusaka, Zambia. The Matero compound is one of the largest and poorest compounds in Lusaka, Zambia, with an unemployment rate upwards of 65% and a high incidence of HIV and AIDS and malaria.
This program provides enrolled children with an opportunity for safe play and psychosocial support in an environment which facilitates activities, discussions, and educational lessons. In addition, homework help is provided. This program keeps the children off the streets (where they can be abused or get into trouble) for a few hours on weekends and has led to an improvement in performance at school and overall child happiness.
Impact of Safe Parks
Over the past few months, out trained child and youth care workers have been educating children (via games, drama, role play, and poetry) on HIV and malaria prevention, overall health issues, safe sex, sexually transmitted diseases, and the importance of adherence to medication. Discussing these issues helps the older children feel comfortable with these issues, reduces the stigma associated with HIV, and encourages them to adhere to their medication regimen.
Younger children engage in drawing, coloring, soccer, playing with building blocks, singing, and dancing. These activities benefit the children’s physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development and overall health. Finally, expectant mothers who are HIV positive are counselled on prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV which leads to fewer new infections. The direct beneficiaries are about 75-80 children and families who participate each week with a total of about 700 children who are enrolled.
In 2013, a few children participated in the Barefeet Youth Arts Festival held in Lusaka. This was an opportunity to demonstrate to children from other districts how Safe Park participants are “living positive” and having fun. We hope that the children can continue to participate every year.