Why "Safe Park"?
“Safe Park” is Power of Love’s community outreach program and is free and open to all children in the community of Matero, in Lusaka, Zambia. Most children in this community are vulnerable and/or orphaned; they live with extended families, grandmothers or older siblings and often face hunger, disease, abuse and neglect. As a result, they need counseling, support, and a safe area to interact freely. Their families need counseling and information about organizations who could be help to them.
A Few Highlights of Typical Program Activities
- Children from Matero and neighboring communities participated in educational games and activities such as singing, dancing.
- Children are observed by health care workers trained in child counseling. They encourage the children to express their feelings, interact with other children. This helps them feel loved despite their difficult family circumstances. As children make friends, they share their experiences with each other.
- Trained child care staff counsel families of children who exhibit unusual behaviors such as getting into fights due to trauma or abuse.
- More open discussions lead to a reduction in the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS.
- Family members who are mostly grandmothers/single moms learn the how to provide care to HIV+ children.
- Women living with HIV+ who are pregnant learn about PMTCT (Prevention of Mother-to-child transmission of HIV) that results in children being born HIV free.
- Additional psycho-social support is provided to children.
Impact of program activities
As a result of program activities outlined above, more children are making friends, caring for each other and fewer fights have been recorded. The psychosocial support provided, facilitates activities and discussions which results in improved emotional, mental and physical development of children. In addition, as children build trust with the health care staff, they come forward to discuss problems faced by themselves or their friends. The family is then counseled and provided with information on next steps.
We are growing educators and leaders: Over the last 2-3 years, we have been encouraging older children to lead workshops during our weekly educational games and activities program. Some of the older children, who are regular participants in “Safe Park”, have taken up this challenge and are now leading workshops in HIV prevention and basic hygiene for younger children. These young educators have become role models and mentors for younger children and will grow up to become community leaders. A story of one such leader is given below.
Joe, a 17-year old, lives with his aunt and four cousins. For the last three years, Joe has been participating enthusiastically in educational activities and games during our “Safe Park” program on Saturday mornings. He is also enrolled in Power of Love’s pediatric HIV care program and receives a comprehensive package of health care services. As a result, Joe’s health has improved significantly over the last 12 years that he has been with us. He is studying in grade nine and is an excellent student. Since, 2017, Joe has been leading workshops on HIV prevention and hygiene and enjoys this assignment. He says that he loves mentoring younger children.
Benefits of “Safe Park”
“Safe Park” activities benefit hundreds of children like Joe, get help with school work, learn about HIV prevention, and have fun with peers. The children get an opportunity to play, interact freely with other children, and mentor younger children. In addition, their families are referred to government clinics for counseling and testing for HIV, TB and cervical cancer. All program activities are designed to help children learn life skills and to provide critical information (location of clinics for counseling) to family members. The result is well adjusted happier children, and a stronger more well-informed community.
Thanks for helping provide a safe environment for orphans and vulnerable children to learn and play.