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Thank you, Chris!

The idea for the provision of the specific items of a donkey and plow, in addition to the idea of the purchase of a peanut oil-producing machine, came directly from refugee families. During the feedback phase, the refugee camp coordinator in camp Goz Amer conducted additional household interviews to further assess whether this idea would be accepted by families in the community. The idea received very positive feedback: families welcomed the idea and valued the opportunity to use a donkey and plow, and many expressed hope that the program would be quickly scaled to include more families. Additionally, the refugee beneficiaries say there is not a lot of diverse agricultural needs in their region, and all families typically plant and grow the same (limited) variety of crop.

The eastern Chad agricultural season is vulnerable to variable weather patterns. Too much rain or too little rain can affect crop growth and yield, and, in turn, may affect Little Ripples families’ ability to contribute to the costs of Little Ripples. In order to address this, iACT will work with refugee beneficiaries and experts in livelihood in Chad to design and test year-long solutions for livelihood to support Little Ripples.

The majority of refugee families are currently away from the camp and at their plot of land, farming. We have increased the number of participating families from four to twelve for this summer rainy season. Our next phase would be to learn from the experience of these families over this summer, and spend the next school year (October to May) testing, iterating, and finalizing the program design to scale the program with hundreds of Little Ripples families in four eastern Chad refugee camps during the summer of 2018. Some families also farm small plots during the year. Through the leadership of our refugee staff and beneficiaries, iACT will identify and work with families that farm year round to learn about their agricultural practices and yield, barriers and needs, and opportunities.

iACT will determine the most effective tools for any given situation by speaking with stakeholders in agricultural activities and livelihood, including refugee families, experts, and local actors in the agricultural sector, government officials, and NGOs. In order to scale this solution, iACT will incorporate experts and NGOs working in developing sustainable agricultural activities in the region.

Overview of Little Ripples
Donkey Ripples is a refugee-initiated idea and refugee-managed solution that empowers families to contribute to the cost of daily nutritional meals and foster sustainability of Little Ripples (LR), a refugee-led early childhood education program reaching refugee children ages three to five living in camps.

iACT partners directly with refugee beneficiaries to establish, adapt, and implement Little Ripples in their community in order to improve the social-emotional, cognitive, and physical health of children ages three to five.

Little Ripples was initially a school-based model. In 2013, iACT established a Little Ripples School in camp Goz Amer, currently reaching 400 refugee children annually. However, in order to create a more community-centered and cost-effective model, iACT shifted LR to an in-home-center model. LR is now hosted in the home spaces of refugees across each camp, and this has drastically reduced the cost of construction and barriers of access for young children. Refugee families have compounds consisting of one or more mud and thatched-roof structures and open space, surrounded by thatched fencing. A simple structure, consisting of two adjacent cement walls, a cement floor, and a covering, is built inside a refugee’s home space, along with a latrine, hand-washing station, and safe kitchen area. This is the Little Ripples “Pond” or classroom. Children between the ages of three and five from the surrounding homes and who live in the same “block” as the Pond are enrolled and walk only a few hundred yards to attend preschool six days a week.

The Little Ripples curriculum is a pre-established outline of evidence-based, quality early childhood education designed to improve the social-emotional, cognitive, and physical development of refugee children by guiding teachers in a daily structure and lessons that promote play-based literacy and numeracy, development of fine and gross motor skills, social-emotional skills, hygiene practices, mindfulness, and empathy building. The curriculum was designed by iACT Technical Advisors—experts in early childhood education and development, trauma recovery, and mindfulness. The state-of-the-art components of the curriculum provide daily guidance for refugee teachers but also leave room for adaptation. Little Ripples teachers infuse the curriculum with stories, games, and songs that reflect their culture. Research has shown that learning cannot be separated from a child's social and cultural context; additionally, empowerment occurs when a community contributes to solutions.

Little Ripples offers a daily, nutritious meal to every attending student. The daily meals are sourced, prepared, and served by two refugee women trained and employed as Little Ripples cooks. One cook is a woman from the household hosting the Pond, and the other is a neighbor. Together, the women learn how to manage meals for a large group of children, source the ingredients from families and the local refugee market, create weekly meal plans, and ensure that health and hygiene standards are met. The LR School employs four female cooks.

A nutritious meal is imperative for the cognitive and physical development of young children. Offering a daily meal at preschool, in a refugee setting—in which the majority of families report eating only two meals a day—does not create dependency. Rather, a meal at school increases school attendance, improves students’ ability to focus, learn and develop, diversifies their nutrition intake, and creates pride for the program among community members at large.

Little Ripples is currently operating in two refugee camps in eastern Chad. Refugee camp Goz Amer has a Little Ripples School and six in-home centers reaching a total of 850 children and employing 48 refugees as camp coordinators, education directors, teachers, guards, and cooks. In camp Djabal, two Little Ripples in-home Ponds currently serve 90 children and employs nine refugees. These numbers will increase to 135 children and thirteen refugee employees after the 2017 rainy season ends and the third Pond is built. Program feedback in both camps from teachers, parents, refugee leaders, and UNHCR has been very positive. Caregivers feel more connected to their child’s education experience, and teachers feel more ownership of their “classroom” space. More children are consistently attending due to the proximity to their homes, and UNHCR has requested that the solution be scaled in eastern Chad.

In fall 2017, Little Ripples will be scaled to two additional refugee camps in eastern Chad, initially employing fourteen refugee women and reaching 270 children. iACT is also preparing to scale, implement, and test the Little Ripples refugee-led preschool model in contexts outside of Chad.