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Supporting families to engage in early child development


This week, Handicap International staff members from Bangladesh, Thailand and Pakistan are gathered for a training on early child development, and how to foster the well-being of children in the early years. The training is an important part of the Growing Together project that supports vulnerable children in displacements settings through play.

HI Bangladesh, Pakistan et Thailand staff follow a workshop over early childhood development - Growing Together project supported by IKEA Foundation | © Ch. Shin-Hua Yeam / Handicap International

Nilutpaul, Disability Officer from Bangladesh, carefully lies his doll on her tummy. He listens to the guidance from the trainers, but soon, he will be the one explaining to community workers and caregivers that ‘tummy time’ is very important for the development of the baby.

The idea is that caregivers understand that early stimulation of their baby can greatly support their child to progress in their development and growth. Without stimulation in the early years a baby’s brain does not grow to its full potential’, explains Cheryl Shin-Hua Yeam to her participants. Cheryl is Handicap International’s regional technical coordinator of the Growing Together project, and specialised in children’s development through play and stimulation.
"A child that is sad, cannot learn and develop"

We encourage play and routine based daily interactions between caregivers and their young children because these early years are crucial for the development of a baby and child’s brain, and therefore impacts them for the rest of their lives and helping them to reach their full potential. We are also trying to foster healthy adult-child relations’, says Cheryl. ‘The psychological and emotional welfare of the child is very important: a child that is sad, stressed or lives in fear, cannot learn and develop.’

The Handicap International staff member take notes and practice. Once they are back in their own working-area, refugee camps in Bangladesh and Thailand and IDP (Internally Displaced People) camps in Pakistan, they will identify the youngest refugee children who are at risk of development delays. ‘Our staff will show community workers and caregivers how they can stimulate their children through play-based activities throughout daily life in the home, because the most important stimulation activities for a child are the learning experiences the child has at home, and the interaction with the parents, siblings or caregivers. The best intervention is the one provided regularly, in the context of ordinary family routines, by family or caregivers.

The early child development training is an essential part of the Growing Together project. With support from IKEA Foundation, Handicap International develops accessible, safe, and child-friendly spaces where children with disabilities and other vulnerable children can play and learn. Through educational games, arts, sports, and learning activities, the organisations promotes holistic child development and well-being, essential life skills, self-esteem, social cohesion, and inclusion. In a safe environment, parents and caregivers will learn how they can help their child grow stronger and more independent.

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Christelle BRUCKER
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