Episcopal Relief & Development and our partner the Zambia Anglican Council launched an integrated early childhood development program in 2012 for families affected by HIV/AIDS. Currently serving 8,000 children under five and their parents or other primary caregivers, this program was started with a $350,000, two-year grant from The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation as part of their Children Affected by HIV and AIDS initiative. Based on early signs of success, Episcopal Relief & Development has now been awarded a three-year, $1 million grant from the Foundation, to strengthen the program and expand it to other rural areas of Zambia during 2014-2016. The Hilton Foundation grants are matched 1:1 by Episcopal Relief & Development with other funds, as required by the Foundation.
The first years of life are a critical period for cognitive, psychosocial and physical development. In the context of HIV/AIDS, many children are cared for by an ill parent; others are being raised by older siblings, grandparents, relatives, or neighbors – increasing the stresses already experienced by families living in poverty and putting young children at greater risk.
The program is based in churches and schools that serve as Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centers. The ECD program leverages the assets of the Zambian Anglican Church nationally and locally, with a dynamic network of local leaders and volunteers focusing on young children’s cognitive, psychosocial and physical development.
Trained volunteers facilitate caregiver support & learning groups, make monthly home visits, and provide referrals to needed services. To ensure families have the resources they need to raise children who will thrive, the program addresses health, nutrition and food security, and livelihoods strengthening.
The communities have enthusiastically gotten involved in the program, with dedicated volunteers carrying out the activities and collaborating organizations providing additional services. There has been an overwhelmingly positive response from families and children. Some early indicators of success include:
caregivers and their children have had consistent attendance at the centers for the support groups/playgroups and growth monitoring sessions
children are playing together regularly, developing social and language skills
more caregivers are taking their children to receive immunizations and using child health cards to ensure the children get preventive services and treatment when needed
In the video below we follow Catherine, a volunteer or Lead Promoter in Zambia, as she conducts home visits and talks about her role in the Early Childhood Development program.