In May 2019, our team was in refugee camps Kounoungou and Mile in eastern Chad. We were working next to our Little Ripples team to assess whether the early childhood education program is meeting the unique developmental needs of the young children in their community. Collecting this information is never easy, and you’ll read about some of the challenges we faced below. Overall, we’re proud to report that the women leading the Little Ripples (LR) program in camps Kounoungou and Mile are exceeding our expectations, and parents are reporting improvements in their children’s early learning and development.
Here are some results of our program assessment (read the full assessment here) which demonstrate the progress of LR in refugee camps Kounoungou and Mile over the past year:
6 Little Ripples Ponds (in-home learning centers) were constructed in the home spaces of refugee families across each camp, with 6 families agreeing to maintain a safe environment for young children.
270 young Darfuri children ages three to five participated in a quality, play-based and trauma-informed early childhood education program and received a daily nutritious meal.
28 women were trained and employed as LR camp coordinators, education directors, teachers, and cooks. These women worked together to adapt and lead the program in their community.
1 program assessment was completed. Little Ripples showed improvements in children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. The assessment also highlighted the high level of food insecurity among households across each camp.
The 28 employed LR team members continue to empower the children, themselves, and the community by setting a strong example of a dedicated and successful female-led program. The women implement and manage every aspect of the program including registration, weekly monitoring of the children, attendance, outreach to parents, daily teaching, management of the meal program, collecting data, reporting back to iACT, and more. During the first school year, each Pond enrolled 45 children and maintained a 2 to 45 teacher-to-student ratio. The ponds also had a more than an 80% attendance rate. Since the start, the program has maintained a 100% employee retention rate. The same group of women who completed Teacher Training I and were employed in November 2017 are still employed, managing the program, and advocating the LR’s program values of peace, helping, sharing.
“At the beginning, kids registered, [but] didn’t attend. They started to see that we are happy teachers and we have mindfulness, songs, food, colors, shapes, sports, language, and numbers. Now, they come and they talk to people. Kids of Little Ripples are now very well. One student, just three years old, asks his friends to make a circle around him so he can sit in the middle and do mindfulness like at Little Ripples.” – Saida, LR Teacher
As a part of the program assessment, survey questions were given to the LR students’ parents and caregivers. The results from these surveys informed us about the progress of the LR students since joining the program:
100% of caregivers reported ‘Yes’ when asked if they feel their child is safe at Little Ripples. Whereas, 56% of caregivers do not feel their child is safe in their camp.
There was an increase in the number of caregivers who report their child is able to do something independently and that their child “always” or “often” shares with others.
There was an increase in the number of children (in Mile and Kounoungou) who are able to identify colors, count to 10, identify animals, and recite the alphabet.
It is with a heavy heart that we also have to report that 100% of families surveyed are characterized as severely food insecure. Camps Mile and Kounoungou in eastern Chad are home to a combined 40,241 Darfur refugees. Services in the camps have been drastically cut, including food rations. Many caregivers of LR students admitted that sometimes the meal provided at LR is the only one their child receives that day because their food rations are so limited. The majority of families run out of their food rations within three weeks of receiving them. This means that most families are going at least a week without food rations. This further exacerbates the food insecurity of each household and the health of the community at large.
46% of parents/caretakers worry that their family does not have enough food.
60% of parents/caretakers say they sometimes go to bed hungry.
68% of parents/caretakers say they sometimes go a whole day without eating.
Little Ripples will continue to run in refugee camps Kounoungou and Mile because it must.
Little Ripples is the only comprehensive early childhood education program for children in these camps. The future of Darfuri refugee children will be shaped by their experience in these under-resourced and forgotten refugee camps on the border between Chad and Sudan—and, so, we will continue to support and work alongside the Darfuri refugee community to ensure a strong foundation for their children and their community.
The Little Ripples project is supported by Elrha’s Humanitarian Innovation Fund program, a grant-making facility supporting organizations and individuals to identify, nurture, and share innovative and scalable solutions to the most pressing challenges facing effective humanitarian assistance.
The HIF is funded by aid from the UK Government and the Directorate General of the European Commission for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (DG ECHO). Visit www.elrha.org for more information about Elrha’s work to improve humanitarian outcomes through research, innovation, and partnership.
iACT thanks Jesuit Refugee Service for their steadfast partnership. iACT appreciates the dedicated support of the refugee camp-based iACT and Little Ripples team in camps Goz Amer and Djabal who not only assisted in the launch of the Little Ripples program in camps Kounoungou and Mile, but worked tirelessly to help iACT and the camp Kounoungou and Mile communities measure the impact of the program.