Early Childhood Development and GHI

Blog by Steven Alajajian

Translation by Monica Mutoni


Upon entering the Early Childhood Development (ECD) hall, dozens of children dressed in green and blue T-shirts stood and began clapping their hands and singing a welcome song. They then sat back down on benches and mats. Above them, drawings and coloring pages were taped to the brick wall. The children were lively and engaged.


The Gardens for Health International (GHI) Health Team spent a day in late August visiting the Association of Volunteers for International Service (AVSI) in the Gicubmi District, prior to enrolling a new cohort of health program participants who began trainings in early September. We visited to gain another viewpoint on how to approach the ECD aspect of our programs, which we have been revising over the summer to provide more structure to ECD caregivers.


A child attending the Early Childhood Development program at a GHI Busogo Health Center training in Musanze, Rwanda. Photo by Maggie Andresen for GHI.


Our Early Childhood Development Program was started in 2013 to complement our investment in the physical development of children with cognitive and social advancement. The ECD program is a natural extension of GHI’s efforts to provide holistic and integrated support to the families of children with malnutrition. While we see agriculture as a key driver of health, we understand that seeds alone won’t solve the core problem of malnutrition. Emphasis must also be placed on ensuring the healthy physical, mental, and social development of children.


At each of our partner health center’s, trained ECD staff manage nourishing and socially stimulating environments for the children of all the caregivers enrolled in our Health Center Program. The ECD program has a positive impact on both children and caregivers – it allows mothers the opportunity to focus during trainings, without interruptions from their children, and children the opportunity to grow, learn, and play together.


However, as we’ve faced several challenges in maximizing the full potential of our ECD program, we’ve looked to other organizations who have been successful in providing comprehensive and effective programs to help guide our own work.


A mother feeds her child Sosoma at a GHI health center training on family planning at the Gataraga Health Center in Musanze, Rwanda. Photo by Maggie Andresen for GHI.


AVISI provides economic, and gender-based violence education to parents, using a child-centered model. The organization runs a youth cooperative where mothers learn livelihood skills while their children participate in an ECD program. The AVSI social education center that we visited on that day serves as a sort of laboratory for testing activities.


The AVSI model is based around scalability and sustainability. Those who receive trainings go out to train their neighbors in the community. If AVSI were to walk out of the community one day the programs would still continue, a representative explained to the GHI health team.


Mukanibenda Agnes, president of the AVSI youth cooperative, described how the co-op began with an early childhood development program in 2013. At the onset, AVSI considered challenges at home. Children were often left at home without anything to do or anyone to take care of them. They viewed school as a place where they would be punished rather than a place to develop their interests.


AVSI started by teaching parents how to put the spotlight on the young child, take care of her or him, provide stimulation critical to development, and build loving relationships. Children aged 2.5 to 5 years were enrolled in the program. Their mothers were trained in running ECD groups. Four out of twenty mothers ran the groups each day, leaving the other 16 women to pursue economic activities. Livelihood skills like sewing, soap making and handicraft production were also incorporated into the program.


A child drinks Sosoma at a GHI health center training on family planning at the Gataraga Health Center in Musanze, Rwanda. Photo by Maggie Andresen for GHI.


Children enrolled in the program started to receive sosoma – a fortified blend of soy, sorghum and maize flours, without added sugar. The program also began incorporating toys made with locally accessible materials, such as balls, dolls, and banana leaf books. Additionally, the mothers now receive trainings on nutrition, gain literacy skills,  and have access to a library.


The basic AVSI model does not require a continuous input of support and resources from AVSI to work. As a result, other communities have even adopted the model as a self-sustaining system.


Clever, a village chief from the remote village of Kabeza, a three hour walk from where AVSI is based in Gicumbi, described the implementation of this model in his community.


After some training from AVSI, his eyes were opened to the need to take better of care of children in his community. He organized a group of community members that began looking for a shelter to house the project. They renovated an old school and enrolled 24 parents. AVSI initially trained them for one week. They followed the same model, having four parents at a time prepare sosoma, care for and stimulate the children of the larger group, allowing the rest of the parents to pursue income.


The project was a success. Mothers who had specific skills taught other mothers, including how to read and write. Since then, a second ECD school has been opened in the community, which operates on its own and serves 300 children.


“These children are sharp,” said Clever. “They enter primary school more prepared than their peers.” (rough translation).


A video taken at the AVISI visit. Video by Stephen Alajajian.


ECD activities for children within the AVSI program include daily handwashing and hygiene practice, time for drinking sosoma, free playtime, and structured activities. These activities include singing songs, coloring, playing group games, doing brain teasers and saying closing prayers. The children study a different topic each day such as animals, colors and parts of the body. They are taught how to interact with one another in a harmonious way, Pauline told us, whereas previously they used to fight and be hostile. She also mentioned their sound hygiene practices.


GHI’s ECD program has its own unique challenges. The malnourished children enrolled in the GHI health center program are prioritized based on age which means that in most cases the majority of them are under two years old. The children also do not have daily exposure to ECD as the group only meets once a week when the health center trainings occur. However, having seen the success of AVSI, how ECD curriculum is structured and what is possible, the health team left excited and inspired to move our own early childhood development curriculum forward in the current season.


With your help and support, we can ensure that the children we work with are best placed to achieve their full potential.


Donate now to support GHI’s ECD program.


Byanditswe na Steven Alajajian

Byashyizwe mu Kinyarwanda na Monica Mutoni


Mu gihe twinjiraga mu cyumba gikorerwamo ibijyanye na gahunda yacu ya Early Childhood Development (ECD), abana benshi bari bambaye imipira y’icyatsi n’ubururu barahagurutse batangira kuririmba indirimbo zitwakira. Nyuma yibyo barongeye bicara ku ntebe ndetse no ku mikeka.Hejuru yabo ku gikuta hari hamanitse ibishushanyo by’amabara atandukanye. Abana bari babifitiye umuhate cyane.


Itsinda ryari ryaturutse mu Murima w’Ubuzima (GHI) rikora mu ishami ry’ubuzima bahamaze umunsi wose mu mpera z’ukwezi kwa Munani basura ishyirahamwe ry’abakorana bushake batanga serivise mpuzamahanga ( Volunteers for International Service) bakorera mu karere ka Gicumbi, mbere yuko duhitamo abazatangira gahunda yacu y’ubuzima batangiye amahugurwa mu ntangiriro z’ukwezi kwa Cyenda. Iki gikorwa cyo gusura twagikoze kugirango tumenye neza uburyo twarushaho kunoza imikorere ya gahunda yacu ya Early Childhood Development (ECD) kuko twahoze dukurikirana imikorere yayo mu mpeshyi ishize kugirango turusheho gushyiraho uburyo bunoze  bwo korohereza abita ku bantu muri iyi gahunda ya ECD.



Umwana ari muri gahunda yacu ya ECD mu mahugurwa abera ku kigo nderabuzima gikorana n’umurima W’ubuzima muri Musanze, Rwanda.  Amafoto yafashwe na Maggie Andresen wo mu murima w’ubuzima.


Iyi gahunda yacu ya Early Childhood Development ( ECD) yatangiye mu 2013 kugirango idufashe kukoresha ibyo twashoye mu gufasha abana bato gukura neza bagatera imbere mu mitekerereze ndetse no mu buzima rusange. Gahunda ya ECD yashyizweho kugirango yagure ingufu z’Umurima w’Ubuzima (GHI) zo gufasha bihamye imiryango ibamo abana bafite ikibazo cy’imirire mibi. Nubwo tubona ko ubuhinzi aricyo gisubizo cyadufasha kugera ku buzima bwiza, tuzi ko imirama yonyine itakememura inkomoko y’imirire mibi. Ingufu zigomba gushyirwa no mu kuzamura imikurire y’umubiri, imitekerereze, ndetse n’ubuzima rusange by’abana.


Kuri buri bigo nderabuzima dukorana nabyo, twahaye amahugurwa abakozi bakora muri gahunda yacu ya ECD tubigisha uburyo bagenzura imirire ndetse n’ubuzima rusange bw’abana b’abarezi twashyize muri gahunda yacu y’ibigo nderabuzima. Iyi  gahunda yacu ya ECD ifite akamaro ku bana n’abarezi babo. Iha ababyeyi amahirwe yo gukurikirana mu gihe barimo guhabwa amahugurwa abana batabagora ndetse n’abana babona akanya ko gukinira hamwe, bakiga kandi bakura.


Nubwo twahuye n’imbogamizi zitandukanye mu kuzamura imikorere ya gahunda yacu ya ECD, twifashishije ibindi bigo byashoboye kugeza gahunda zabyo kugirango badufashe mu mirimo yacu.


AVSI iha ababyeyi inyigisho ku bijyane n’ihohoterwa rishingiye ku buzima rusange, ubukungu, ndetse n’irishingiye ku gitsina hakoreshejwe uburryo burebana n’abana. Iki kigo ifite koperative y’urubyiruko aho ababyeyi bigira ubumenyi ku bijyanye n’ubuzima mu gihe abana babo baba bari muri gahunda yacu ya ECD. Aho AVSI yigishiriza ibijyanye n’ubuzima rusange twasuye ubusanzwe haba labaratwari ikorerwamo ubushakashatsi ku ’ibintu birandukanye.


Umubyeyi agaburira umwana we Sosoma mu mahugurwa Umurima w’Ubuzima utanga ajyanye no kuboneza urubyaro yabereye ku kigo nderabuzima cya Gatagara mu karere ka Musanze, Rwanda. Amafoto yafashwe na Maggie Andresen wo mu murima w’ubuzima.


Mukanibenda Agnes, umuyobozi mukuru w’ishyirahamwe ry’urubyiruko rya AVSI yasobanuye uko iryo shyirahamwe ryatangiye gukorana gahunda ya ECD mu mwaka wa 2013. Bigitangira, AVSI yitaye ku bibazo byo mungo. Abana basigwaga mu rugo badafite icyo bakora cyangwa se ubitaho. Bafataga ishuri nk’ahantu bahanirwa aho kurifata nk’ahantu bigira ibintu bitandukanye.


AVSI yatangiye yigisha ababyeyi uko bareberera abana bato bakabitaho, babaganisha ku iterambere ndetse bagirana ubucuti  nabo. Abana bafite imyaka hagati 2.5 kuri 5 nibo bashyizwe muri iyi gahunda. Ababyeyi babo bahawe amahugurwa yukuntu bagenzura amatsinda yo muri ECD. Ababyeyi bane muri makumyabiri nibwo bagenzura amatsinda buri munsi hanyuma bandi cumi nabatandatu basigaye bagakora ibijyanye n’icungamutungo. Ubumenye rusange ngo kudoda, gukora isabune, ndetse no kuboha byashyizwe muri iyi gahunda yacu.


Umwana anywa Sosoma mu mahugurwa atangwa na GHI ku bijyanye no kuboneza urubyaro yabereye ku kigo nderabuzima cya Gatagara mu karere ka Musanze, Rwanda. Amafoto yafashwe na Maggie Andresen wo mu murima w’ubuzima.

Abana bashyizwe muri iyi gahunda batangiye gukabwa sosoma – ifu ya soya, uburo, n’ibigori bivanze hatarimo isukari. Iyi gahunda ndetse yazanyemo n’ibikinisho by’abana bikoze mu bintu bitandukanye boboneka hafi nk’imipira yo gukina, ibipupe, n’ibitabo bikozwe mu makoma. Ikindi nuko ababyeyi ubu babona amahugurwa ku bijyanye n’imirire, ayo kwijijura kandi bakabona ibitabo mu isomero.


Uburyo bwibanze AVSI ikoramo ntago busaba  ingufu n’ubufasha buhoraho buvuye muri AVSI. Ibi bituma ayanda ma kominote afata ubu buryo nk’ikintu gisaba kwikorera utegamiye ku bandi.


Clever, umukuru w’umudugu uri mu cyaro muri Kabeza ahantu hatwara amasaha 3 ugenda n’amaguru kugirango ugere aho AVSI ikorera mu karere ka Gicumbi yadusobanuriye uburyo iyi gahunda ikora muri kominote.


Nyuma yamahugurwa amwe namwe yatanzwe na AVSI, yahumuye amaso ye kuburyo yumvise ashaka kwita kubana bo muri kominote abamo. Yashyizeho itsinda rigizwe n’abantu bo muri kominote abamo ryo gushaka inzu uyu mushinga wakoreramo. Bavuguruye ishuri rishaje barangije bashyiramo ababyeyo 24. Ubundi AVSI yabahaye amahugurwa mu gihe kingana n’icyumweru. Bakurikije uburyo nk’ubwa AVSI bwo guhitamo ababyeyi bane bo guteka sosoma, bakita ku bana babo ndetse n’ababandi bose, bigafasha abandi babyeyi kubona inyungu.


Uwo mushinga wageze ku byifuzwaga ,. Ababyeyi bari bafite ubumenyi runaka bigishije abandi harimo nko gusoma ndetse no kwandika. Kuva ubwo, ishuli rya kabiri rya ECD ryarafunguwe muti iyo kominote kandi rikaba rikora ryonyine rigafasha abana 300.


“Aba bana bazi ubwenge,” byavuzwe na Clever. “ Binjira mu mashiri abanza biteguye kurusha abandi” (Ubusobanuro bukomeye).


Amashusho yafashwe ubwo tasuraga AVISI.

Ibikorwa bya ECD byagenewe abana biciye muri gahunda ya AVSI birimo koga intoki buri munsi ndetse no kwitoza isuku, isaha yo kunywa igikoma, gukina, ndetse n’ibindi bikorwa biteguwe. Ibyo bikorwa harimo kuririmba, gusiga amabara, gukina udukino mu itsinda, udukino dusaba gukoresha ubwonko, ndetse no gusenga. Abana bafata inyigisho zitandukanye buri munsi nk’amazina y’inyamanswa, amabara, ndetse n’ibice bigize umubiri wabo. Bigishwa uko bavugana n’abandi mu mahoro, Pauline yatubwiye ko bwambere bajyaga barwana bakaba n’abanyamujinya cyane. Yanatubwiye ibikorwa by’isuku bakora.

Gahunda ya GHI ya ECD ifite imbogamizi zihariye. Abana bafite imirire mibi bashyizwe muri gahunda ya GHI y’ibigo ndera buzima bafatwa bitewe n’imyaka bafite. Ibi bivuze ko akesnhi abana bafatwa baba bafite hasi y’imyaka ibiri. Abana ntago bakorerwa ibyo byose ECD ibakorera kubera ko bikorwa rimwe mu cyumweru igihe habaye amahugurwa ku kigo nderabuzima. Kuba twarabonye uko AVSI yageze ku bikorwa bishimishije, uko imikorere ya ECD iremye, n’ibishoboka, abakozi b’ibigo nderabuzima bahavuye bishimye ndetse bashishikariye no gushyira mu bikonrwa imikorere ya ECD muri iki gihe turimo.


Ku bufanye namwe, twakwiyemeza ko abana dukorana nabo bamera neza kugirango bagere ku bushobozi bwabo.


Gira icyo ufasha gahunda ya GHI ya ECD