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Returning to Camps Kounoungou and Mile, Chad

I write sitting on the ledge of my hotel room patio. It’s not comfortable, but my intention is to get acclimated to the 110-degree heat before we travel to eastern Chad tomorrow and we begin our long days in refugee camps Kounoungou and Mile. Not too many years ago this hotel was the place to be in N’djamena, buzzing with expats, humanitarian workers, andmilitary and government officials. For many reasons, including a loss of attention on the refugee crisis in Chad, lizards and birds now dominate the property. It’s just as quiet as the UN Refugee Agency compound where we’ll be staying tomorrow night in Guereda, eastern Chad.

Over the next two weeks, our team of three will work with Jesuit Refugee Service and our Little Ripples refugee employees, the camp coordinators, education directors, teachers, and cooks, who have been managing Little Ripples in camps Kounoungou and Mile since October of 2017. Additionally, as on previous trips, experienced Little Ripples team members from two other refugee camps in eastern Chad will be joining us. These refugee team members have been running Little Ripples in their camp since 2013, and will travel to camps Kounoungou and Mile to assist us achieving our trip objectives: Little Ripples teacher training, Little Ripples program assessment (interviewing caregivers and children), and listening to and working next to the Kounoungou and Mile community to sustain Little Ripples and continue to address the needs of their young children.

For the Little Ripples team in camps Kounoungou and Mile, the Little Ripples teacher training will be their third in a series of three, designed to gradually equip and prepare them with the knowledge, skills, confidence, and experience to lead and sustain Little Ripples in their community, as well as scale the program and become the trainers of early childhood education teachers.

Over the past six months, the Little Ripples education directors in camps Kounoungou and Mile have reported 100% enrollment, with 45 children attending each Little Ripples Pond (in-home center), and a 95% attendance rate. During training, we’ll ask the education directors and teachers to share how they’ve been successful in enrolling children and maintaining such a high attendance rate—which are often a challenge in refugee settings. These will be some of the learnings we garner from the women doing the work every day and that we’ll take with us to share with other refugee communities we work with in Chad, Cameroon, Tanzania, and Greece.

As I anticipate our travel to the east tomorrow, and the work ahead, I have Mouna, a 21-year-old Little Ripples teacher in camp Kounoungou at the front of my mind. During our second Little Ripples training in November 2018, Mouna said to me, “I hope we become leaders.” Her words have stayed with me. In fact, on my desktop I have quotes, words, and ideas from our refugee team that I refer to on a daily basis. Mouna’s are one of them. Since I last saw Mouna, she’s had six months of experience teaching and managing Little Ripples. My hope is that those months of experience coupled with the third Little Ripples teacher training have helped Mouna and her peers feel they have, or are becoming, the leaders they aspire to be.


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