Hi Ashley, It's great to be participating this this innovative platform and approach!
First, ICRI believes that no lasting change can be made for children, families, or communities without true local ownership of programs or projects or change making. Second, without the integration of key community leaders, parents, and those who experience the challenges sought to be corrected, the potential for successful results is significantly diminished. Third, change will not be sustainable without a deep understanding of local cultural imperatives and their impact on all aspects of program planning, development, and implementation.
The Circles of Caring model takes into account decades of work in the field and witnessing the fragmentation of services for the most challenged children and families. Time and again ICRI has seen that laser focused approaches to development either does not work or works in a minimal capacity. The true successes happen when communities are viewed as a whole and how the parts effect each other. This model seeks to address the core areas of basic needs whether they be on the individual, family or community level. Just a few examples: How do children learn and succeed in school if they are hungry, sick, or mistreated or if the school does not provide developmentally appropriate practices and environments? How do parents go to work if there are no adequate schools to send their children to or someone to provide appropriate care? How do community members work if there are no sources of sustainable income? How do community members access healthcare in remote areas where there are either no roads or they are in terrible disrepair? How do communities recover after natural disasters when they don't have either the physical or civic infrastructure to withstand the storm? The Circles of Caring model looks to take all of this into account with the community defining the specifics of how it will happen on the ground. Again some examples of how the Circles interact and can play out:
Circle One: -Provide quality early childhood education and care - we focus on early childhood because of the recognized vital importance of these early years and the foundation it sets for future success. Investing in early childhood is investing in peace, prosperity and planet for now and the future. -Training - Teachers get better at their jobs and become continued valuable resources in their communities, and better able to meet the needs of the children they are serving. Parents - are empowered to own their children's education, this benefits the child, but also potentially opens up opportunities for employment for parents in the field of education and child care. -It also provides a physical communal gathering point to house other vital services, such as a health clinic, vocational training center, or community garden.
Circle Two: -provides easier and more regular access to basic health care services -health education for families -potentially another source of employment - community members can be trained as local practitioners for preventative health needs. -growing food - increases access to adequate nutrition at low cost, also promotes sustainable land use practices, and food security, and acts as a resource which then allows a community to provide for itself promoting self-sufficiency and self-determination.
Circle Three: -opens up new areas of work that is also relevant and needed within the community -promotes civic engagement and empowerment -promotes resiliency and sustainability -other skill building and vocational training that is applicable in multiple contexts - growing food, building roads, creating market places etc... can be taken and used anywhere and can be shared in a wide variety of situations.
Thus far, ICRI has envisioned the Circles of Caring model through the image of concentric circles starting with children and their families at the core, where comprehensive care and education of both child and parent is the focus and all other circles build off of that core creating a ripple effect that is felt community wide and benefits the community as a whole. In addition, through this process, we seek to bring services "closer to home" and in many ways demystifying how community members access services. This is really an inter-disciplinary approach that not only creates ripples, but works to build bridges between the circles on a constantly evolving basis. Services are often kept in their own "silos" and this model works to "open things up". It allows people who are disenfranchised to step out of this by engaging in the circles. It also looks for cross-cutting opportunities where recipients in one circle can become providers in another circle.
I hope this helps to answer your questions please let me know if there is any further information that we can provide! We love to talk about and work with this model as we see the potential impact for the long term.
I love the way you are approaching this idea from a holistic perspective! FCH-Espwa's partner ICRI has been successful at implementing Family Centric Children's Villages where we have moved away from the traditional orphanage model, to having groups of "homes" with volunteer or professional "parents" and "grandparents," where the "family" grows its own fruits and vegetables, eats together, are housed together and where the children are nurtured each day by their "parents". Educational programs are delivered on the same site or in local public schools nearby. This breaks much of the stigma that we see around the world with traditional "orphan/displaced children". We are also currently working on developing an Unaccompanied Youth project in Accra, Ghana - expanding the potential of these programs to not only orphans, but street kids as well. Maybe there is some potential here to collaborate and/or share best practices? Good luck! The power of bringing together inter-generational programs and quality food cannot be understated!
Thank you for showing love, kindness, being brave and standing up to give these children a voice! Children with special needs play a beautiful role on this planet and we all need to be more aware and understand this role better. If you are looking for additional resources to support your project, please take a look at the book "Six Steps to Child Advocacy" by Amy Conley Wright and Kenneth Jaffe. If you are interested our office headquarters could even send you some copies. FCH-Espwa's partner ICRI has worked for decades in the field of child advocacy; fighting for children and fighting for those who fight for children. ICRI's Global Director, who co-authored this book, has also been training advocates including teachers, parents, community leaders and local and national governments on how to succeed in child advocacy since ICRI's inception in 1981. The book also includes other good research reference points and additional sources that you might find helpful. In addition, if you are looking for further advocacy support or training you can contact us http://www.icrichild.org.