Children Thriving in Rural Zambia
She will bear a son and they will call him Emmanuel, which means ‘God with us.’
Matthew 1:23 and Isaiah 7:14
As we prepare during this Advent season to welcome the Christ child, we are reminded that all children are a sign that God is with us. Episcopal Relief & Development and our partners around the world share a vision of young children happy, well-fed, and playing.
Over the past two years I’ve been working with colleagues and our partner the Zambia Anglican Council to realize that shared vision through a new program supported in part by a grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.
Our early childhood development (ECD) program works primarily with families affected by HIV and AIDS, who face many more challenges trying to provide the care and stimulation young children need. ECD Centers have been set up at local churches and schools and the playground equipment has proven extremely popular!
As Grace Mazala Phiri, National Programmes Director of the Zambia Anglican Council, explained, “swings and slides have never been seen before in these rural communities, they can only be found in city parks. The children are begging their parents to be taken to the ECD Centers to play with their friends, not just on the designated caregiver support group and playgroup meeting days.” The value of play has often been overlooked but it makes a huge contribution to children’s learning and social development. With resources too scarce to buy toys, one activity has been creating playthings from what’s already available.
As a result of the ECD program’s initial success, we were invited to present at the Coalition for Children Affected by AIDS meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, December 5th. Grace delivered the presentation on behalf of both our organizations. She highlighted the program’s holistic approach and how it leverages the churches’ networks and volunteers – to organize communities, empower parents and caregivers, and provide stimulation and enrichment for young children.
Following the presentations, participants visited program tables to learn more. Abiy Seifu, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Program Officer, shared that “our ECD Zambia program generated a lot of interest from all sides – academia, non-profits, and others. And people were very impressed with the toys displayed, made by caregivers using local materials.”
If you would like to join this effort to enrich the lives of young children in Zambia and other countries, please visit our Gifts for Life: Nurture & Nourish the Earliest Learners or consider our Child Survival Fund
From all of us on the ECD Zambia team best wishes for Christmas blessings!
Photos: Top, children enjoy swings with their fathers. The role of men is an important part of the ECD program and their participation is highly encouraged. Middle, Children in the ECD Program in Zambia. Bottom, Grace Mazala Phiri, National Programmes Director of the Zambia Anglican Council
Photo credits: Top & Middle, Episcopal Relief & Development. Bottom, Anglican Alliance