JOHANNESBURG — FREEDOM PARK IN SOWETO
This safe space, situated in Soweto’s Freedom Park, was founded in collaboration with UNICEF and Progress UK in Soweto’s Freedom Park. The Clinton’s Foundation also sponsors the safe space program. President Clinton with Nelson Mandela played an important role in the founding of City Year South Africa in 2005, a national service program which unites volunteering young adults to serve and help communities for a year. This safe space intends to be active in solving common issues of concern like: education, future employment, sexual health and hygiene.
The aim of this safe space is to welcome HIV and other STDs affected children as South Africa is very concerned by the AIDS problem; but other children are also welcome, orphans or only with one parent, low income earners, etc. This ensures the development of disadvantaged communities which various social challenges emanate: poverty, unemployment, violence, illnesses, etc.
The school, located next to the park, relies heavily on purchasing food from the garden for the children. In that way, they can take food home, provide daily meals into the community, thus for those who have to follow a healthy or nutritive diet because of their illnesses (HIV for example), respect it well.
The garden allows children to connect with nature and learn a little more about it. It enables the safe space to become self-sustainable and for children to supply for themselves, grow for the community and learn the notion of « reusable ». Another function of this safe space is to deal with deeper problems and do more psychological work on children and young people; take care of teenage pregnancy, youth that have been abused, dealing with violence against women, etc. Professionals are on hand to help children talk about their problems.
This shade community area has several facilities to accommodate children as best as possible: dance classes, library, computers, internet access, kitchen (which elders have access). Coming after school, children get to learn and develop skills, do their homework, get help with their CVs. Art workshops provides therapy, education and transformation to children and a playground is being fixed so that they can play (part of the filming workshop). Also, with the actual lack of sexual education in South Africa, activities are organized around this theme. Moreover, a council deals with all kind of questions and an online platform has been set up to stay connected from home.
DURBAN — UMBUMBULU
Located in a very rural and semi-isolated community next to Durban, the Umumbulu safe park is another project of the collaboration between Baz’Art, UNICEF and Progress UK.
The conditions of this area are difficult: under financial strain, there is no running water (fortunately there are tanks). In South Africa, life conditions and the AIDS epidemic has compelled many children to take on adult responsibilities. Playing is compromised when children have to take care of others. The safe space seeks to address this reality for children by providing them with the occasion to play and learn within the protective circle of educators.
Being a fairly secluded area, far from the urban civilization, we notice that teenagers got a lot more involved in the building of the safe park than in Soweto or Cape Town. Thus, eager to learn, they participated in a lot of courses.
There is a government school which provides education from primary to high school. It is located about 10 kilometers away but there isn’t any transport so the children have to come walking.
Along the road, incidents occur, young girls are raped or killed… Indeed, sexual violence and bullying at school are among the top issues concerning young people in South Africa.
As at each safe space that we run, children, who often come from the farming township, get to learn life skills and practice all kinds of activities. They have the opportunity to talk about their issues, whatever they are (HIV, sexual education, STDs, etc.).
The garden motivates children to come to the safe space, grow food that they can use and eat after gives them independence. Indeed, the last generation that knew how to cultivate the land is gone, so they learn from a new beginning. Proposing workshops of art, gardening and filming allows children, at a young age, to connect with activities other than electronics and secure them an early approach to simple things of life like nature.
Finally, these safe parks are concrete reminders that with the right amount of support, help and instruction, the potential for children is boundless.