This project provides a safe area for children, impacted or infected by HIV, to play and learn and keeps them off the streets. It is free and open to all children from the community of Matero in Lusaka, Zambia. About 780 children are enrolled and 80-90 children participate each week. Children engage in educational games and activities and homework help is provided. This allows health care personnel to assess the mental and physical development of children. Parents are counseled as needed.
A high incidence of HIV, AIDS and malaria together with low education levels and a high rate of unemployment characterizes our community. Most residents are extremely poor and live on less than $2 per day. A majority of the children suffer from mental health issues due to loss of a parent, fear of loss due to AIDS , stigma associated with HIV, and/or living with extended family who have minimal resources to provide adequate care. All these impact a child's normal physical & mental development.
Our project nurse observes the children's behavior to understand the child's home environment (e.g. stress, trauma, apathy, abuse). Educational games and activities are used to identify psycho-social needs and counseling provided so as to stimulate mental and physical development and strengthen family relationships. Homework help and a small snack is also provided. The children interact freely irrespective of their HIV status, are kept off the streets, have fun and develop a sense of belonging.
We see an improvement in the mental and physical health of children who participate regularly due to the opportunity to play/learn/do homework in a safe environment. They go back home in a happier and more relaxed state of mind. Second, homework help keeps children motivated to work hard and do better at school. Third, guidance and counseling provided to family members helps them to take better care of their children. Impact on children is a feeling of well-being and belonging in the community.