CARE International has been implementing an innovative early childhood development project in parts of Rwanda that is changing lives in a number of sectors. This project deserves to be highlighted because of the phenomenal manner in which it integrates distinct developmental practices into one comprehensive program. Beneficiaries of all ages are engaged at various levels throughout their lives, with the added benefit of creating spaces for inclusion and participation on their behalf.
1) The project beings with support for locally organized daycare services in rural Rwanda. CARE is supporting these women run daycare centers through subsidies to families who cannot afford the one dollar a month fee. These centers provide meals for children, teach them proper hygiene practices and provide an opportunity for parents to engage in other activities with peace of mind. As an added incentive to enrolling their children, CARE subsidizes the most at-risk families’ national medical insurance. While at the centers, local health promoters actively monitor the children’s health and development. While these daycare services offer a chance for parents to engage in economic work, they are also making it easy for service providers to regularly access a large pool of beneficiaries.
2) Once the children grow to be toddlers, they move to one of CARE’s early childhood development centers, where they are provided with meals, and a safe space to learn and socialize with other children. While serving much like a daycare, this center focuses on teaching the alphabet, counting, and developing other activities that stimulate early childhood development. CARE facilitates the formation of parent-teacher associations to help manage the centers.
3) The “cost” of enrolling your children at the center are through the workshops that CARE implements during the parent-teaching association meetings. CARE has cleverly capitalized on these occasions to engage parents in topics ranging from child-rights, to family planning and to child health.
The benefits of this integrated system is that CARE is able to engage families of a particular region on a number of issues. NGOs typically offer workshops for communities and subsidize travel and meals an incentive to participation. This model only succeeds if beneficiaries being able to identify the benefits of participating before they have attended. Instead, CARE’s model addresses issues affecting working women with children while also directly engaging their children. By obligating parents to partake in discussion on issues such as family planning, this project is helping change attitudes and practices in rural communities that directly affect the lives of women.
Projects like CARE’s that reach out to an entire family over years are perfect opportunities to implement projects. Through the parent-teacher associations, NGOs can gain access to a pro-active group that wants the best for their families. One of the most difficult phases in a projects life cycle are when its attempting to gain buy-in from a community. Here, CARE has developed an alternative medium through which they are guaranteeing participants for new interventions over a long-period of time. Other NGOs should take note and see what other mechanisms can be developed to ensure long-term participation of beneficiary groups.
This project was developed by CARE International. To find out more click here.