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Children's community resource centers

The idea is to set up resource centers for children from poor families in peri urban areas within Uganda, that their parents can also use. Several children are not availed the opportunity to see a classroom or develop their talents either because their parents cannot afford it or do not deem it important. This will be a free space for little children to learn, play and engage in activities with their age mates both for fun and learning. Additionally, there will be benefits to the guardians and the community at large. The community shall be greatly involved in the initial process and the running of these centers. They will provide labor and land initially. Additionally, they will participate in resource mobilization and management.

Photo of Esther Kalenzi
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At 16, Annette became a mother. Her daughter, Grace, is 3 but will not be joining any kindergarten or early learning centre any time soon. Maybe never. Like her mother, she will be lucky if she ever goes to any sort of school.
In Kisenyi, like many other slums around Kampala, education and healthy living are luxuries. Parents and guardians know that their children need to go to school but they cannot afford it. It is much worse if you are an orphan.

The one school in the slum barely has any teachers or scholastic material. It is a shell. Not to mention, the dangers like rape, drugs and crime which lurk in every corner of the slum, posing further threat to children like Grace, her playmates, James (5 years), Ronald (7 years) and the tens of others, mostly orphaned and abandoned, in the slum.

This situation is the same in most of the densely populated, peri-urban parts of Uganda. Children are born in harsh conditions, to young mothers who themselves have nothing. No knowledge or information on safe motherhood, no source of income to guarantee the safety of mother and child, no skills to provide a start point -- nothing to go on.
The worry is that there is every chance that this unfortunate cycle will not be broken if nothing is done, leading to more Annettes and Graces.

However, my team at 40 days over 40 smiles and I believe that by creating safe one-stop centers in the communities where the children and their parents or guardians can assemble to take part in or acquire the basics in recreation, education and health respectively.
A semi-formal curriculum which will incorporate visual aids, videos, games and handy work shall be used to stimulate the brains of the young ones while also ensuring they enjoy their childhood.

We will protect the children from the dangers they face; and empower parents, guardians and the communities to ensure that children enjoy a safe, energetic and dynamic and childhood.

Our plan is to create safe,stimulating Community Resource Centres in densely-populated peri-urban communities with need, where the children (orphaned and/or impoverished) can go and play, learn basics like reading and writing, receive basic health and sanitation care and amenities, harness skills and talents like dancing, drama, music and sports.
Through regular meetings with community leaders and parents, we shall have feedback which ables us to improve areas that need to be upgraded and maintain those that work.

We have experience working with vulnerable coomunities and understand that changing mindsets can take a while. It is for that exact reason that we are ready and willing to initiate this project and take the journey with these communites. By hearing out their needs and supporting them, we shall be able to ensure that they eventually learn how to solve issues within on their own
We envision a time when they will be able to run these centres on their own after they have received training. 40 days over 40 smiles will then play the role of networking and providing a link to new and existing partners.

We intend to use recycled material which is cost effective but also falls in line with our model hinged on creativity and innovation.

Meals shall be provided at the centers to ensure the children are eating right and staying healthy.

For the children who leave further away, a drop off point can be chosen so that a coaster can pick them up and drop them off at the end of the day.

Since, mothers and caretakers play the most important role in nurturing and ensuring the safety of children, especially in the early childhood stage, the centres will also provide basic educational space for the mothers to acquire essential knowledge about safe-motherhood, nutrition, health and sanitation, and hopefully, skills trainings -- all of which will contribute to the safety of children in their 0-5 years, in the poorest communities.
Part of our work will involve creating linkages and partnerships with already existing networks to implement and eventually, develop the capacity of the communities to take over these centres.

These partners will also play a role in providing avenues for further education through scholarships for children from impoverished backgrounds who hithertho would not have been given the opportunity.

Our networks

We are an organisation built on networks. We identify a community need, speak to the community on what the best soulution is, and then work with implementing partners, groups and individuals and the community to provide the solution. We have crowd-sourced our funding, skills and materials for all our projects in the past and are certain that old and new partners shall come on board.


Who will benefit from this idea and where are they located?

The main beneficiaries will be children, mothers (guardians) and by extension, the communities where the centers will be built. Our organization is based in Kampala, Uganda, and I envision these centers, beautifully set-up, starting in the outskirts of the city especially the slum areas that are overcrowded and barely structured. Children from these communities will have a safe place where they can come in to play and to learn all sorts of lessons and basics of literacy, through specially tailored programs and activities. The mothers and guardians will also have one place of reference where they can come in for information ranging from health and sanitation, feeding, entrepreneurship or even to trade ideas and experiences. Consequently, the communities will benefit from having safer and healthier children and mothers/guardians and by having a starting point that encourages them contribute more to the protection and education of children.

How could you test this idea in a quick and low-cost way right now?

Our previous work has involved bits of this idea although now, we seek a more structured and singular way of pursuing this dream. We have existing networks to tap into, especially for skills support towards piloting. We also propose to use recycled and local material for set up structures and play areas which will be cost effective and set precedent for our unique model. We would also leverage our other networks and specialist implementing organizations, groups and individuals to support these programs in the community centers. Skilled volunteers will take charge of the lessons and activities for the children. Through use of social media, we have managed to work with thousands of youth in Uganda to support community based projects for almost three years. We have ensured accountability and community involvement throughout this time, values we shall consistently implement with the resource centers. We shall also speak to community leaders of our target communities, interact with single parents and impoverished families from these communities. This shall aid us to gain better knowledge of needs and solutions. From this, we can ably come up with community generated solutions to the major underlying problems [in relation to children’s education and health] and how solutions to them can be integrated into the Community Center programs.

What kind of help would you need to make your idea real?

Feedback would be great for this project. I would also love to get expert advice for my team and I. Consequently, financial support would be needed to ably implement the idea. Ideas on how to ensure its quality control and growth are appreciated.

Is this an idea that you or your organization would like to take forward?

  • Yes. I am ready and interested in testing this idea and making it real in my community.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Musa Innis

This is a nice idea inn terms of practicality and clever motivation as it goes straight to the problem and ways to deal with it in terms of education systems.

However, i feel that you should work on the father as well as mother and children to help build a community and a stronger bondage in the family.

Social media is key these days and can be very effective so as you have a foot in the door already that is an amazing attribute, as well as the experience.
I hope to strive for better and achieve all the goals you which to achieve.

I also like the fact that you are trying to better yourself in the sense that you got so far last time and trying to get further in the future. Keep up the Good and Positive work!

Photo of Ayman Hanafi

Well done Esther. You have lots of good things going on here. Perhaps the introduction on how to grow food would be good providing nutrition enabling the parents and children to thrive and make progress.Safety is the most important thing in any child's life. Good luck!

Photo of Charlotte Norris

Esther, I think this idea is fantastic and it seems you have put a lot of thought and consideration into this. I especially applaud you are trying to think of ways to set up a system that offers safety to children who can be exposed to dangerous situations. The free meals idea is great too, because many families struggle to ensure their children are getting the correct nourishment on a minimal income. Have you researched what sort of vegetables grow in these areas? Could you encorporate the growing of vegetables as one of the activities for the children? This could enhance their learning and their diet at the same time. The idea is great! This level of learning seems to be for ages 5 and above. What sort of ideas can come of this to focus on 0 to 5 years? You mention setting up support systems for mothers and caregivers too, which is great. How can this be implemented in a way that will combine learning for parents as well as children? Good luck taking this idea to the next stages of development, I hope this is successful and goes on to help and improve the quality of life and learning for children and families in years to come!

Photo of Muhumuza Mark Keith

Dear Esther,
I do like the idea. Getting kids to access information is important, especially the underpreveleged. Just some quick questions:
1. The location of these resource centres require a building. Will you be acquiring land for construction? Or it is rent?
2. Have you identified an area for at least a pilot project? This to identify the sustainability of the project.

Photo of Meena Kadri

Interesting stuff, Esther! Perhaps you might consider helping people better grasp how this idea could play out by describing some example scenarios which describe user journeys through some of the proposed activities you've outlined. Check this example: where a few simple scenarios were created in an attempt to explain the goodness on the idea in a human-centered way. (You can update your post at any time by hitting the Update Entry button up there on the right.) Through doing this we'll be able appreciate your idea through the lens of people in low-income communities.

We also hope you'll join in on discussion on others people's ideas here at OpenIDEO. Your perspectives would certainly enrich our conversations and collaboration...

Photo of Esther Kalenzi

Thank you Meena. Your suggestion was very helpful.
I have re evaluated the idea based on your thoughts, let me know what you think.

Photo of Idob Nazus

This is by far the clearest pragmatic shade of light on what seemingly is a wasting away age of Ugandans who can't access foundational education. It is true that 'education as we know it' , in Uganda, is losing its effectiveness and relevance in relation to the 'product' efficiency after school is done, so to speak. And this inefficiency, I'd like to think, can be rooted back to early childhood days like many of you have captured up there.

Two things;

1. A community based children's resource center, in the less leafy parts of Kampala...and Uganda as a whole, should primarily seek to change the mindset of the children, and in turn, families directly involved; however HARD.

In a bid to strengthen the foundation and richly develop cognitive abilities of these children such that things like Creativity, innovative-ness, self-dependence and the like are achieved, which I know shall be self-announcing and effect sustainability; I think it most important to pay closest attention to 'how' this is going to be achieved ( teaching mechanisms and the like). And the center's sustainability and longevity only a secondary concern, lest a brilliant idea turned 'project' ends up being another one of those community ventures that are evaluated more in word than in deed.

2. It's clear that 40/40's role shall largely be within the corridors of resource brokerage and effective management like they've proven to excel at, and they may have to take chances on completely depending on other stake holders that can skillfully see to the success and effectiveness of such a project, My concern is how the foundation hopes to commit to THE point; the actual functionality of the resource centers.

Otherwise, for practicality, and ingenuity's sakes... I know this to be the most brilliant Idea as far as attempting to deal with the root cause of our wanting education system; first as a result of families' inability to afford an education for their Children and also as a result of the grossly irrelevant curriculum being used in local schools. I hope you get all the required aid to effect this brilliance such that the fruit of the labour of our education system is evidently better.

Photo of Charlotte Nalumansi

This idea is clearly based on ground research already done.
Many people would appreciate resources they couldn't access before being made available to them. It seems to me that the biggest challenge would be quantifying the impact made on the community.
A dedicated team such as yours and external support can help make this work.
I am very interested in seeing this idea implemented.

Photo of Esther Kalenzi

Charlotte I agree. Several children in Uganda have to grow up in poverty and are not availed an opportunity for 'plan B.'
It would be great to bring this idea to life and give them an opportunity to change their story.

Photo of Esther Kalenzi

Thanks Idob Nazus, that was very detailed and brings up helpful pointers that we intend to focus on in order for this idea to work.
It is true that Uganda's current system is wanting and I am excited to see children develop skills from a young age. This idea could be the start of something great, which can be replicated.
A good foundation shall certainly play a big role in shaping the children's lives.

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)

Dear Esther,

This is an amazing initiative and one that we are also very interested in via our MECPU programme.

We appreciate that you are using locally-sourced and accessible resources. Amazing!

It's very important that you're reaching out to parents to be a big part of your expanded community. May we ask: what efforts have you put in place to get buy-in from fathers specifically? We are working on an ICT campaign to complement our VHT home-visits and other activities. We are always open to input.

Best of luck from the MECPU team!

Photo of Benjamin Rukwengye


Thank you for sharing your views on our idea and helping us improve it.

Our work mainly targets vulnerable children (orphans, poor, child-headed families, HIV/AIDS) and mainly poor single teenage/young mothers and caretakers. We have not exactly considered the fathers but part of our outreach into the communities involves speaking to and involving the leaders and elders (mostly males).

Are there experiences from your work that you would like to share with us on how we can involve the fathers?

Photo of Madrasa Early Childhood Programme Uganda (MECPU)

Dear Benjamin,

Thank you for your reply!

We are currently working in the communities through the government-health system in the form of VHTs. The VHTs do perform household visits with the intent of relaying best-practices for the whole family with the intention of capturing fathers. The physical presence and motivation of fathers in C4CD activities has been a challenge which is why we have developed this idea.

Two useful resources on incorporating fatherhood into programming and policy:

1. Pro Mundo and Fatherood Institute released this document which is an extensive review of existing programming and provides some best practices and interesting links, projects and organizations to follow up with.

2. For Uganda, specifically, this study is useful when framing a programme:

Apollo Nkwake (2009) Maternal employment and fatherhood: what influences paternal involvement in child-care work in Uganda?, Gender & Development, 17:2, 255-267.

We look forward to further discussion on this topic and hopefully we can exchange success stories and best practices going forward.

Sincere regards,

Photo of Danny T

I love that you already working on this - all the best and God bless you for having a big heart - think about reaching countrywide and sustainability beyond five years

Photo of Esther Kalenzi

Thanks Danny. Yes, we have worked with communities and think it is high time we spread it out with focus on early childhood.
If the project works as well as we hope it shall, this model can be replicated countrywide.

Photo of An Old Friend

How do you plan on ensuring that the resource centres are utilised for their intended use?

Photo of Esther Kalenzi

Patience, that is a good question. Our model will involve having community leaders trained and actively participating in the entire process.
We intend to initiate the project with plans of eventually letting the community manage these centers. Ideally, we would be in charge of building network and capacity in the long run.

Photo of Patricia Kigula

I am very impressed with the idea, Esther. Most of my concerns with it have been addressed. However, do you have a dedicated team to ensure that this idea will develop into something real?

Photo of Esther Kalenzi

Thank you Patricia!
We do have a dedicated team. Additionally, we shall work with our existing networks which are made up of experienced professionals. They will ensure that the children receive the attention they deserve.

Photo of Joshua Siende

Hi Esther,
I have reviewed your idea. Granted, it is unique, I notice its focused on both children and their parents, the later being the priority. It however comes off to me as though the parents would be here for their children primarily.
Could you adjust this model to support even that parent who is interested in benefiting and yet has no children?
Second, I also notice that in a way, this is an alternative or rather substitute to main stream education for the kids that cannot afford school, my question becomes, what next?
At some point these children out grow the play and early childhood stages, what is in place for them, you will have given them a foundation, what next?
In my opinion, this model would serve better given the following issues are addressed:
1. A "semi-formal" curriculum for the children to keep them at the same level as those in mainstream education. The alternative is a full on skills course the children can gradually develop to enable them attain applicable real life skills, of course keeping close watch not to breach child labor regulations.

2. A small separate program to attract and invite parents and non-parent community members in search of skilling opportunities.

3. An exit strategy for kids who are exiting the "early childhood" stages, for example, linkages to technical schools, bursaries to secondary school, gainful apprenticeship with people or companies that feed off of their "skills set area".

That said, i think this can go a long way in bridging the illiteracy gap and saving many a child from becoming the next "irresponsible citizen" as a result of lack of opportunity and professional guidance.

Photo of Benjamin Rukwengye

Hello Joshua,

Thank you for reviewing the idea. Most definitely, we would love to give more prominence to the parents in our program considerations and we shall ensure that we try to cater for them. Please see the box in the bottom right corner of our illustration diagram of the Community Resource Centre for some of the programs that we propose for the parents, to see if it addresses the concerns you raise and advice on how we can improve on them.

As for the curriculum and exit plan, it is my understanding that these centres are meant to be 'starting points' where the children get the very basic in literacy, and social support to enable prepare them and their parents for formal schooling.

Think of these centres as innovative support Kindergarten centres for vulnerable children and information centres for their parents and guardians to enable them have a push towards Primary school and a normal, happy childhood.

We hope to incorporate the idea of invitations to people from outside the communities that you point out in No. 2 above but as part of our sustainability and confidence building, we shall let the benefiting communities decide who gets invited, how and why, so that the management of the centres is fully in the hands of the communities, leaving us to play a supporting/advisory role.

Photo of Joshua Siende

Thank you Benjamin.
It does address parents quite interactively.
Non Parents however are an illustration you should bringing out clearly as the project seems to side line them a bit .
Thanx again.
I love the idea, best of luck.

Photo of Isaac Tegule

This is a great idea and way of securing the future of our younger generation. When you mention partners who can take it forward....i think it would be great to consider corporate institutions that are aligned with children welfare as well as schools that can adopt at 5 children a year or per level (primary) onwards.
The most important thread in this is the leadership & vision behind the project which from reading this, I trust you have exhibited through your previous engagement hence have full confidence that with technical partners on board, this will be a success.

Photo of Benjamin Rukwengye

Hullo Isaac,

Thank you for taking off time to review and give advise on how best we can improve the idea. Your proposal most definitely helps us answer Joshua's concerns (below) about an exit strategy for the children after they have outgrown the Resource Centres.
We have taken note and as part of growing our already existing networks, we shall emphasize links with corporate organisations, individuals and schools to support children from these centres through bursaries and scholarships.

Much appreciated!

Photo of Esther Kalenzi

Hi Isaac, thanks for sharing. Certainly going to incorporate this into our plan to ensure longevity.

Photo of Mujuni Carlton Qatahar

Thanks for this great Idea Esther, just a simple thought, Beyond getting the community set up and functional, how do you plan on getting the community to own them and run them for effective sustainability?

Photo of Esther Kalenzi

Carlton, your thought is an important one.
Before these centers are put up, we shall have a 'board' of community leaders who shall have their say on the issues and be a big part of the process in the beginning, during and after.
Having worked with vulnerable communities before, we know and understand that changing a mindset can take a long time. However, with regular meetings and consultations with the members of the community, we are positive that they will be able to continue the legacy after seeing the potential and fruits of the centers.

Photo of Lionel Mugema

This is a grand idea!
The number one need to achieve this is LOVE not finances. Love that transcends our personal desires.
We need to be able to see what is going on around us. It is important not only for us but for our future generation.
We need to be fully committed to this project so as to achieve the desired outcome.
Our networks are LARGE and I have faith in them. We can achieve this. We only need to stop and observe.
Thank you Esther!

Photo of Esther Kalenzi

Thank you Lionel.
I am positive that an idea like this would outlive us and ensure a turn in early childhood for Ugandans as a whole.

Photo of Gloria Lyt

Hello Esther, I have read that you speak with community leaders. However, the trend i have seen in Uganda is something-for-something even in the most impoverished communities. How about you add a different strategy to making the leader become hands-on?
for instance, you could perhaps make the leaders become honorary 4040 representatives so that they can also give input in terms of local resource mobilization ie labour (eg the parents can give an hour or two daily to construction).... or something along those lines.
Otherwise, great work!

Photo of Benjamin Rukwengye

Hullo Gloria, Thank you for pointing that out. The idea for these centres is for the communities to be involved from the very beginning i.e. conceptualization, contributing to building through resource mobilization and labour (like you suggest) and eventually, manage the centres, with the organisation only playing the networking role to ensure that the centres have running programs and implementing partners in Education and Health are coming in to do their work.

Photo of Richard Zulu

Esther, I notice on your facebook page you have done some validation on your idea and used Crowdfunding to test certain aspects like playgrounds. I suggest you update your post above with the learnings from this work. Further to that, pay attention to Meena's contribution below on how you can use diagrams to explain the journey of how it will work

Photo of Esther Kalenzi

Thanks Richard. I have tried to capture these points in my update.

Photo of Benjamin Rukwengye

Brilliant, practical idea, mostly because it addresses an oft neglected component of education -- Early childhood.

The idea would probably work best if the skills and recreational angle is used as a front to break into the communities and catch the attention of the children to come to the centre. Then while they are there, integrate actual education (literacy and health support programs) to them and their parents might be the best way to go about making it work.

Integrating talent development in centre's programs helps develop the children's abilities and confidence and can be a catalyst for parental support, offers of scholarships and bursaries by schools and other organisations.

The fact is, Parents and communities in slums and peri-urban/rural areas know the value of education but worry about the cost. Giving them a point to start helps build the confidence of not just the children but of the parents too.

2. Another idea is that perhaps, through your networks, the parents can use some of the space at the centre to learn a few handy skills that enable them to afford some income to eventually transfer the kids to formal schools.

Photo of Esther Kalenzi

Benjamin, thank you! I agree.
In these areas, the parents are so keen on getting the next meal that they may ignore the fundamental components of health or education in a child's life.

Having trained volunteers look out for these children's strengths/weaknesses would go a long way in supporting the all round growth of these toddlers.

I think one of the most endearing 'side benefits' is the potential to support the parents as well.