In addition to the other stresses of poverty, including food insecurity and the often negative influences of at-risk populations living in collective housing, the children find themselves in an environment where there is often no quiet or private space, and no real way to spend constructive or fun time, away from the struggles they face in daily life.
For all of our kids, experiencing a positive environment like they have in the club was a completely new affair. Many of them told their club mentors that this was their first experience of feeling safe, included, of receiving recognition and encouragement.
The club has become highly significant, both for the children and the parents. We believe the program has not only a beneficial effect for the children directly involved, but is also allowing us to continue to learn how best to serve children in this type of circumstance.
From the team:
We have an individual approach to the children. We pay attention not only to fulfilling assigned tasks, but also how the kids behave toward one another and how they respect the rules of the club. We try to note their mood, and listen to any distress they may be in.
These children are used to suppressing their personal feelings and worries, because doing so makes things easier for them. In their home environment, no one asks them how they feel, and therefore they often ignore their feelings in themselves. Whenever we notice that children are not "in their own skin", we offer them a so-called safe place - they know that they can confide in us about everything they feel or what is happening in their lives.
At the beginning of the project the children were quite reserved. Two years in they were already very comfortable with us, and could rely on and confide on us. As the club has now been operating for 5 years, we have had the opportunity to work with a larger amount of children. We are still in contact with most of them, including those who are of legal age now and have not been visiting the club for some time. They get in touch, sometimes asking for advice, sometimes simply to say hello and remember the experiences they had with us at the club. Most of them take us as their older siblings or more experienced friends.