Boxes of happiness

Fri, 1 April 2011

“Thank you, and please keep doing this for other children” – Beneficiary, aged 13

Six Months Later: South Coast Hospice Association: Memory Box Workshop Project

In June 2010, the South Coast Hospice Association ran a workshop to help 20 children cope with the emotional impact of having lost parents to AIDS. This report revisits the programme six months later to see what the lasting change resulted from this project.

Building resilience

Facilitators used a resilience questionnaire to try and establish how the children were coping with the loss of their parents. This questionnaire showed that:

  • At the start of the Memory Box Workshop:

Slightly fewer than 50% of the children did not feel comfortable talking or sharing feelings about their parents’ illnesses or deaths and did not know what happened to their parents.

Between 13% and 26% of the children did not know other children with similar life circumstances and did not think that they would always be cared for.

  • By the end of the Memory Box Workshop:

Between 65% and 70% of the children felt comfortable talking or sharing feelings about their parents’ illnesses or deaths and now know what happened to their parents.

Between 83% and 100% of these children said they now know other children with similar life circumstances and thought they would always be cared for.

Scale of Feelings

Facilitators also used a “Scale of Feelings” to try gain an insight into the children’s emotional state. Children were asked to whether they were feeling angry, happy, sad, scared, tired or worried. This showed that:

  • One month after the Memory Box Workshop:

There was a 61% increase in feeling tired; a 33% increase in feeling happy; and a 33% increase in feeling worried.

There was a 33% decrease in feeling scared.

  • Six months after the Memory Box Workshop:

There was a 57% increase in feeling happy.

There was a 48% decrease in feeling sad; a 39% decrease in feeling angry; and a 35% decrease in feeling scared.

Investing in happiness

Children who have lost parents to AIDS are often the overlooked victims of the epidemic. In recent years the main focus in the fight against AIDS has been in rolling out anti-retroviral medication and preventative education. While this has begun to produce some encouraging results, it has not begun to deal with the emotional trauma that so many South African children have suffered.

The memory box project is a simple, inexpensive way to help these children come to terms with their loss. Because of your investment in this project, 20 children who lost their parents are not as angry or scared as they were before. They are also happier and better able to talk about their feelings.

The success of this project has resulted in South Coast Hospice committing to running the memory box project as an annual workshop to try and meet the overwhelming needs of the children in the community.



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