Why "Safe Park"? Zambia is one of the poorest countries in the world with an overwhelming 1.2 million orphans in a population of just 16.7 million. Most orphans live with extended families, grandmothers or older siblings and face disease, abuse and neglect. Our "Safe Park program", is located in Matero, one of the largest and poorest compounds in Lusaka, Zambia. The community of Matero is characterized with a high incidence of HIV, AIDS and malaria and unemployment rates upwards of 60%. Most residents are poor and live on less than $2 per day – defined as extreme poverty by the UN.
Our goals and what we do: The goals of our “Safe Park” program are: teach life skills, provide education and counseling regarding HIV, and help children with school work. The program, which is free and open to all children in Matero, organizes educational activities for young children, educates older children about HIV, provides counseling to family members, and helps children with school work. Every Saturday morning about 70-80 children come to play and learn with our trained child care staff.
We do more than play: “Safe Park” is linked to our micro loans and pediatric HIV care programs and this helps families take advantage of a diverse set of services. For example, Mary who is 10 years old loves to participate in all “Safe Park” games and activities on Saturday mornings. During one activity she was asked what she wanted to become when she grew up and she said that she wanted to be a teacher. Our child care counsellor advised Mary to attend school regularly to achieve her dream. At this point Mary confided that she has been missing school as her mom could not afford to pay for her school uniform. After a few follow-up conversations, her mom was qualified and given a micro loan to start a business. Mary’s mom now runs a business that helps pay for food, rent and school expenses. There are hundreds of children like Mary who can benefit from “Safe Park” program activities.
Impact of program activities: Children like Mary, get help with school work, learn about HIV prevention, and their families are referred to government clinics for counseling and testing for HIV, TB and cervical cancer. In addition, the children are happier as they get an opportunity to play, interact freely with other children, and mentor younger children. All program activities are designed to help the children learn life skills and to provide critical information (such as location of clinics for further counseling and testing for HIV) to family members. The result is a stronger family and community.