COPESSA has been working to create safe and caring communities for children since 2004. We converted a dumpsite into a play park where children are supervised by our volunteers to keep them safe from abuse or other risks by teaching life skills and activities such as chess. The program is run in containers whose security has been compromised which led to the loss of some resources. Donations will restore burglar bars and provide for tables, chairs, craft material for diverse activities.
The park was created after we found that children were being harmed while playing in dumpsites in the area. The site was designated to be a park and thus developed as a public space. With the increase of substance abuse in the community the public spaces have become a haven for the addicts. The challenge is the severe vandalism the park has experienced over the past few months which compromised the quality of the children's program.
The program provides a safe space to play, a port of call in case of problems at the park and our volunteers can refer kids with suspected learning difficulties or other challenges to the social workers for possible counselling. Attending children are less exposed to hazards like abuse or injury after school. Securing the containers will also protect the resources they need on a daily basis. The volunteers can then focus on the program and making it a valued part of the community again.
Parks are important to the well-being of community members, particularly in Soweto, but they can also be misused. Securing the containers is only one part to restoring the park as a safe, caring space for children. With a changed perception by the community, we can then cooperate to protect their children and the spaces they are exposed to. Through the program, children will enter high school with more self-confidence and to speak about academic or emotional challenges they may be experiencing.