Buddies Try to Counter Violence in South Africa
The urban environment of South Africa, like other urban areas around the world, is often marked by large scale violence that has been called a "low-intensity war." The "Psycho-Social Enrichment of Children" project is run by the University of Witwatersrand's Department of Psychology to foster the development of both young primary school children and of unemployed youths in Eldorado Park, near Johannesburg. The project helps youths become positive role models for younger children. As 'Big Buddies', male and female adolescents who have up to now failed to find a role in their communities become dependable and supportive friends and role models for groups of young children. As a result, the project gives the Big Buddies the opportunity to become a respected community resource; this increases their sense of their own worth while also teaching them parenting skills which will assist them in their roles in later life. Big Buddies are also able to channel their energies into positive activities for and with young children. They are trained in problem solving, leadership skills, managing anger and frustration, and mediation skills, and are encouraged to use games, drama, and creative toys to work with themes that boost the confidence and self-esteem of the children.
At the same time, the project provides the little Buddies' with a safe development environment in which they have many opportunities for growth. Parents have reported happier children who enjoy better relationships with others, have a growing ability to share and a diminishing need to fight, who show increased self-confidence and self-awareness, and have developed an enhanced ability to discern between right and wrong.
Adapted from South Africa: Countering violence through psycho-social enrichment. In Bernard van Leer Foundation Newsletter 84, October 1996.