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In-home Early Childhood Education (Little Ripples Ponds)

In-home centers supporting refugee-led education and trauma recovery

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Little Ripples Ponds is an early childhood education program that trains and employs refugee women to provide culturally inspired home-based preschool education to improve the early development of refugee children exposed to conflict. 

i-ACT has developed and implemented a comprehensive early childhood education program called Little Ripples, in Darfuri refugee camps in eastern Chad. Little Ripples (LR) seeks to improve the humanitarian efforts of empowering refugee women while focusing on the critical need and gap of early childhood education for refugee children. The program uses a participatory train-the-trainer approach to build the capacity of refugee women to serve as teachers and leaders in providing quality preschool education. The skeleton LR curriculum created by experts in early childhood development, trauma recovery, and crisis intervention is adapted by the refugee teachers and infused with their cultural songs, stories, experiences, and traditions. The curriculum’s modules emphasize social-emotional learning, language and mathematics literacy, play-based learning, and physical development of the child.  

Little Ripples is a preschool program that is able to be implemented quickly and efficiently, under the complete leadership of trained female teachers for the improvement of children's social-emotional, cognitive, and physical development. In order to strengthen the program and make it applicable and scalable in eastern Chad and other refugee contexts globally, Little Ripples is moving from a school-based to an in-home model called Little Ripples Ponds (Ponds). Ponds are hosted in existing refugee homes which are adapted to provide a safe space for children to learn and play, eliminating the need and construction of costly new structures in camps. 

Ponds is a forward-thinking program. By reaching children at their most vulnerable and critical developmental stages, LR plants the foundations of interpersonal skills, empathy, and peace among a population exposed to conflict, violence, and instability. Furthermore, when these communities are no longer refugees and must rebuild their lives, women will be able use the program’s curriculum and their acquired skills to assist in developing their community’s education structure for young children. 

EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Little Ripples Ponds is a cost-effective and replicable early childhood development program that trains and employs refugee women to provide culturally inspired home-based preschool education to improve the early development of refugee children exposed to conflict. Little Ripples (LR) seeks to improve the humanitarian efforts of empowering refugee women while focusing on the critical need and gap of early childhood education for refugee children. The skeleton LR curriculum created by experts in early childhood development, trauma recovery, and crisis intervention is adapted by the refugee teachers and infused with their cultural songs, stories, experiences, and traditions. The curriculum’s modules emphasize social-emotional learning, peacebuilding, language and mathematics literacy, and physical development of the child. Not only does it seek to support trauma recovery for the women teachers and children, the program specifically builds the capacity of refugee women to serve as teachers and leaders and redefines the education space by bringing it into the home. Eventually, these teachers can continue being leaders long after they are refugees.

WHO BENEFITS?

The program is currently benefiting Darfur refugees living in camps in eastern Chad. Specifically, the program directly benefits children ages three to five and female refugees trained and employed to serve as teachers. In 2015, we seek to secure support to make a exploratory trip to Syrian refugee camps (possibly in Jordan) or Central African Republic to see if Little Ripples can be replicated to support these communities.

PROTOTYPE

We are currently running a prototype in refugee camp Goz Amer, eastern Chad. This includes: 1) Identify homes and host families, 2) Pair one new teacher with one experienced Little Ripples school teacher and train them together using a participatory train-the-trainer method, 3) Identify first Ponds students and train refugee team to complete baseline assessments of Ponds students and control group to build an evidence-based history of the program.

In April 2015, our team returned from identifying the first Ponds and training the refugee camp-based assessment team comprised of Darfuris living in the camp. After the rainy season (which runs from June - September or October), we will build out the first Ponds, collect baseline and control group assessments, and train our first Ponds teachers using the train-the-trainer approach.

FEEDBACK

We were told by UNHCR and Jesuit Refugee Service that we could not build schools in these camps, since all services were moving towards self-reliance. So the Ponds are in effect a response to this. Richie Davidson, an expert in the field of building empathy, recently said we were doing all the right assessments and activities to build and measure empathy and trauma recovery. One mother recently shared that her daughter "counts more and sings songs and poems at home. Also, at Little Ripples, she's learned about hand washing. "After she goes to the bathroom, she cleans her hands. She likes to be more clean now.” The focus of Little Ripples is on the young students, but the empowerment of the female teachers has been transformational. After the training, one teacher noted, "Learning games to teach the children is my favorite. Before Little Ripples, I never got to play and learn these games. Now I feel like I will be a really good teacher". More assessment results: http://bit.ly/1IR4Rsf

HOW IS THIS IDEA DIFFERENT FROM WHAT YOUR ORGANIZATION (OR OTHER ORGANIZATIONS) IS ALREADY DOING?

Little Ripples seeks to improve the humanitarian efforts of empowering refugee women while focusing on the critical need for early childhood education for refugee children in conflict. The program uses existing spaces and resources to eliminate costly or permanent construction in camps, is culturally sensitive and adaptable to any context and uncertainty, and can be implemented effectively and immediately. The curriculum, co-developed with female refugee teachers, is comprehensive in that it fosters the early development of the child as well as addresses trauma for children affected by conflict. Little Ripples empowers women to be leaders and advocates for education in their community.

HOW WOULD YOU USE AMPLIFY FUNDING AND DESIGN SUPPORT?

i-ACT would use Amplify funding and design support to: 1) Expand Little Ripples Ponds in refugee camp Goz Amer and Djabal, eastern Chad in order to reach all children ages three to five in these two camps. 2) To further evaluate the impact of the program on the social-emotional, cognitive and physical health of the children, to measure the empowerment of the female teachers and supervisors and measure the impact on the Little Ripples students’ family. 3) To formalize our program model and design in order for Little Ripples to be implemented by other actors in other refugee contexts globally. Amplify support will help make LR an replicable, evidence-based program.

HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF THE CHALLENGE?

Little Ripples does not need the physical structure of a school or material resources in order for the program be implemented and effective immediately. Upon recruiting and training female teachers, LR simply needs a safe space for small groups of children to gather. Little Ripples is co-developed with refugee women, and managed and implemented entirely by refugee women. This fosters ownership and builds the capacity of the community. Positions of leadership and formal employment are disproportionally held by men in refugee camps in eastern Chad, LR is designed to ensure opportunities for women both in leadership positions as well as through the inclusive curriculum development process.

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS FROM THE AMPLIFY TEAM

LR’s comprehensive curriculum fosters early development and addresses trauma for children affected by conflict. Children meet educational milestones and learn foundations of interpersonal skills, empathy and peace. LR curriculum is culturally sensitive, accounts for diverse cultural backgrounds of refugees and replicable because it’s inclusively co-developed with the teachers. In addition to mindfulness, play-based learning, and strength-based teaching techniques, LR trains women in management and leadership. The program runs entirely under their leadership. They are staff, liaisons between camp management, and advocates for preschool education and trauma relief. i-ACT is finalizing manuals for teachers and trainers. With these manuals and the curriculum, the program will be completely transparent, accessible, and replicable with any population.

We have learned about the need to shift away from costly physical structures towards in-home centers. Effectively, the program will be more community-oriented and scalable. We also learned that role-playing and hands on activities are the most effective approach to teacher training. Beyond helping them learn, this fostered ownership of the curriculum and facilitated their ability to further develop and design the curriculum for their community.

Currently, Chad does not have a national preschool education curriculum. i-ACT has the opportunity to present LR to the Ministry of Education Chad in order to assist the country.

SKILL SHARE (optional)

We can help advise on creating a replicable program model in a very isolated and desolate region, where even humanitarian support is dwindling after more than 10 years of support. We have also started a soccer program and team, which we can share with partners too. We are really looking to partner in order to expand. This includes creating more Ponds to meet the needs in Darfuri camps, but also to test how replicable the model really is in another refugee context.

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF

I live in the Los Angeles area and I am the Director of Operations and Community Involvement for i-ACT: www.iactivism.org. I facilitate programs for children in the Darfuri refugee camps in Chad, coordinate national campaigns, facilitate an adult Fellowship program, and more.

IS THIS AN IDEA THAT YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION WOULD LIKE TO TAKE FORWARD?

  • Yes, I have implementation capacity and am interested in and able to make this idea real in my community.

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