POL Posts: Blogs, Reports & Updates
September 9, 2015

Impact of "Safe Parks" on Children's Health and Wellbeing

Power of Love's "Safe Park" program is located in Matero, one of the largest and poorest compounds in Lusaka, Zambia. The compound has a population of around 275,000, an unemployment rate upwards of 60%, and an exceedingly high incidence of HIV and malaria. Most residents live on less than a dollar a day. Children face difficult circumstances due to poverty, stigmatization of their HIV+ status, sickess within the family, and distress/trauma due to the loss of parents and family members. Most lack a safe environment to learn and play, which a critical factor in normal development. 


This program is free and open to all children in the community. Children and their family members are encouraged to join our trained child- and youth-care staff every Saturday morning for a few hours. The staff and children play and engage in educational games and activities. At this time we have 760 children enrolled in the program with about 70-80 participants showing up each week. Children (both with and without HIV) interact with each other and with our staff as they play and learn. As a result, children who attend Safe Park regularly:

  • have more knowledge about HIV, are more comfortable with their HIV positive status, and are more ready to discuss that status with their peers
  • face reduced stigma associated with HIV
  • some older children become role models and mentors for the younger children 
  • do better at school as homework help is provided
  • have an improvement in self-esteem and mental/physical wellbeing 
  • develop social skills via sharing, following rules, and cooperating with the staff and other children
  • learn about HIV prevention and care
  • are kept off the streets where they can be abused

In addition, family members are provided with information so that they can access relevant health, educational, and psychosocial services. Read on for the case of a child in our community and the impact of the Safe Park program on her development. 

Claire (name changed) is one of the children who has been participating actively in Safe Park activities for the past two years. Now twelve, she tested positive when she was only three years old (both of her parents are HIV+). Over the last few years her health has stabilized and is improving thanks to her ARV medication. Before she began medication she complained of frequent diarrhea, cough, rash, and fever. Once her health improved Claire returned to school - at this time she is studying in grade four and enjoys her education. 

For the last two years she has been participating in "Safe Park" activities and enjoys interacting with the other children there. As a result of playing games, interacting with other children, and learning about HIV at Safe Parks, Claire feels happier, her self-esteem is higher, and she has missed fewer days of school. 

There are several hundred children like Claire enrolled who actively participate in Safe Park activities. These children experience improved physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development as well as better overall health. Better health leads to fewer missed days and higher performance at school. Most important, these children develop a sense of belonging in the communitiy and greater hope for the future. 

Thank you for your caring and support. 

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