Tackling HIV/AIDS through children’s clubs

Children together

Photo credit: Patrice Drummond

1st December marked World AIDS Day and in 2016, HIV prevention remains a key issue on the global development agenda. Combatting the spread of HIV and providing essential treatment for those affected by the terrible virus is one of the key UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). According to UNAIDS, last year 1.8 million children worldwide were living with HIV and 150,000 were newly infected.

Child to Child works with a variety of organisations worldwide in relation to education, health and public policy, and our child-centred approach to development has played a key part in addressing the challenges faced by communities affected by HIV/AIDS. In East Africa Ace Africa is the largest implementer of the Child to Child methodology and a key organisation working to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. In particular, the creation of Ace Child to Child clubs has been an innovative way of enabling young people to support each other in coping with challenges.

Action in the community

Ace Africa works to empower children and communities impacted by HIV/AIDS in Kenya and Tanzania. Back in 2003 when they started their long-term community development programme in Bungoma (Kenya), the HIV and AIDs pandemic was having a devastating effect on families. Many parents/guardians had been killed by the HIV infection, leaving behind orphans and vulnerable children. ACE Africa intervened to support these children through their ‘Community Health and Wellbeing Plan’ which has been instrumental in improving access to quality health care services through various means including: health and hygiene education; awareness raising on HIV prevention; counselling; HIV testing; addressing stigma around HIV/AIDS; providing direct aid such as mosquito nets, sanitary pads and condoms; and training community health workers. In addition, by incorporating the Child to Child approach within their Child Development, Community Health and Wellbeing and Community Livelihoods programmes, they ensure communities have the training and skills to move out of poverty, and become more self-reliant, independent and healthy in the long-term.

Children leading the way in HIV prevention

Children's education

Photo credit: Patrice Drummond

The Child to Child approach has been a crucial part of Ace Africa’s school-based health education programme. This programme is designed to respond to the effects of HIV and AIDS on children and to enhance their psychosocial wellbeing through providing physical attachment, love and security.

Ace Child to Child (CtC) Clubs are held in primary schools and engage children aged 7 – 15. They offer children the opportunity to learn essential life skills in a safe environment where they can openly discuss and reflect on the everyday issues they face living in rural Africa. Teachers and head teachers are trained in the Child to Child approach and given HIV/AIDS education. They in turn facilitate the Child to Child clubs which support the children to learn valuable life skills. A range of HIV/AIDS-related themes are addressed: HIV/AIDS prevention, transmission, stigma, discrimination and treatment but children are also supported to develop leadership skills. The Ace Clubs also provide the opportunity for children to address challenges faced by children who affected / infected by HIV/AIDS. Children act as “brothers and sisters keepers” visiting the homes of those affected by the virus to offer support. They also participate in advocacy events such as World AIDS Day and World Orphans Day. Through this innovative child-centred approach, Ace Africa’s Child to Child clubs have dramatically improved the lives of children and their communities for the better as children realise their rights and become HIV/AIDS aware.

“The clubs help us to explain to other children not to get pregnant. It encourages them to go to school and to get an education. I want all children to have the same opportunities that I now have.” (Juliet, aged 12 – Olmringiringa, Tanzania)

Community drama Child Rights Drama Groups have also given a voice and stage to those who are vulnerable and marginalised, inspiring discussions on taboo subjects such as sexual and reproductive rights. Students are trained and empowered to create their own impactful drama presentations tackling challenging issues such as child abuse, FGM and child labour, fostering problem solving, self-reflection and, importantly, encouraging a shift in attitudes and behaviour. Alongside trained teachers, child peer counsellors also provide essential emotional support and advice to the most vulnerable children living with HIV/AIDS.

Girls’ engagement

Young girl in Tanzania

Photo credit: Patrice Drummond

Addressing gender equity is a key SDG and focus of Child to Child’s work. Child to Child methodology is a crucial means of engaging girls and young women to address core issues such as FGM and other forms of sexual violence which play a crucial part in HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. Through their part in the DREAMS partnership (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored and Safe), Ace Africa aims to reduce new HIV infections amongst adolescent girls across 10 sub-Saharan countries. Child to Child approaches are being used, in conjunction with DREAMS support groups, to educate girls from rural, underprivileged backgrounds about how to keep safe and what to do if they’ve been affected by rape, HIV/AIDS and/or FGM.

Through its work, ACE has seen that children are powerful agents of change within their communities. When children work together they can change their world!

 

Fighting Super-bugs – A Global Movement

For almost four decades, the power of Child to Child approaches has been in their replicability and the potential to create truly global movements. Its innovative Step Approach promoting child participation was not only appropriate for engaging children but also easily adapted to address a variety of issues.

Now, with the help of Celine Woznica from Child to Child of the Americas, two grassroots institutions with long histories of implementing the CtC methodology are collaborating across the continents to tackle a global problem—microbial resistance due to antibiotic abuse. In the wake of World Antibiotic Awareness Week, we are pleased to share their story!

Representing the movement in Argentina

The Alforja

Centro Niño a Niño (Child to Child Center) in Cuenca, Ecuador was founded in 1995 by Dr. Arturo Quizphe who learned about the Child to Child methodology while taking advanced studies in pediatrics in London. Upon his return to Ecuador, he established Centro Niño a Niño as an organization dedicated to the development, implementation, and evaluation of resources promoting child health, through active child participation.

In 2010, Centro Niño a Niño was invited to join ReAct, a global movement based in Sweden to promote reasonable use of antibiotics and antibacterial agents in an effort to prevent the rise of “super-bugs,” or bacteria resistant to antibiotics.  Centro Niño a Niño’s unique addition to this movement was the perspective of working with children.

The result of their collaboration was a creative resource pack called the Alforja Educativa – the Educational Knapsack. The Alforja is a collection of beautifully illustrated activity sheets, stories, videos, and songs that create an understanding of the importance of the invisible world of microbes to our health and the health of our planet.

Children's health

The Educational Knapsack

After a phase of local testing, the Alforja was rolled out in 2016 with a workshop coordinated by Silvina Alessio of Centro Nino a Nino and Celine Woznica, Director of Child to Child of the Americas. The initial trainees were teachers who incorporated the Alforja into their school curriculum. Follow-up evaluation indicated that the Alforja was effective in conveying the important message that antibiotic abuse affects the healthy microbes needed by our body and world.

Following the success of the 2016 workshop, another training in Child to Child methodology and the Alforja was held in August of this year and participants from five South American countries have begun to implement the Alforja.

Children planting a garden in Bolivia

Now it was felt, it was time to take the Alforja beyond South America.

Forging Connections

ReAct Africa, based in Nairobi, Kenya, showed interest in the Alforja but identified a gap in terms of how to roll it out in schools.  Through Child to Child’s global reach, Celine and the London-based Child to Child office were able to facilitate a connection with AceAfrica, which has been running school-based “Child to Child clubs” for decades in Kenya and Tanzania.

The Alforja has now been translated into English, and AceAfrica has begun to engage multiple stakeholders to adapt the toolkit to the Kenyan context.

The CtC dream

The original spirit of Child to Child was to spread the practice of listening to children and empowering them to take an active part in their own lives, as well as their communities.

It is truly exciting to watch this emerging network of partners, and of people who share the CtC ethos. We hope to have more updates on this global movement soon!

Sex education saving lives: why are adolescents excluded?

By Jetske van Dijk

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Participants of our Pikin to Pikin Tok project

In many countries, sexual and reproductive health is a taboo subject. However, not educating young people about unsafe sex, early childbearing and unsafe abortions exposes adolescents to a multitude of health risks, including sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as HIV/AIDS, infertility and even death.

The release of the UN General Comment on the Implementation of the Rights of the Child during Adolescence in February is a timely occasion to address the role that young people can play in increasing awareness of sexual rights, and playing an active role in saving lives through Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health (ASRH). According to our trustee Ros Davies, Chief Executive of Women and Children First UK:

The UN General Comment is important because adolescents need to be empowered to act on their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Risks of early childbearing
Adolescents in developing countries are often unaware of the existence of contraceptives such as the contraceptive pill or condoms, or might even be discouraged from using them. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every year about 21 million girls between 15 and 19 years of age in developing countries become pregnant, and nearly half of these pregnancies are unintended. Early childbearing can be dangerous for both mother and child. Babies born to mothers under the age of 20 have a 50 percent higher risk of being still born or dying in the first few weeks than those born to mothers aged 20 to 29 (WHO, 2014). Complications from pregnancy and child birth are the leading cause of death in girls aged 15 to 19 in low and middle income countries. Apart from the health risks, there are also social and economic implications for early childbearing. Young girls getting pregnant while still in school often drop out. Lack of education necessarily limits girls’ potential to become fully self-determining. It increases their economic dependence on their husband or family and thus renders them more vulnerable, less able to exercise choice about the direction of their lives. The country as a whole also misses out on the potential contribution that they might make to its development – socially, culturally and economically.

Child to Child has addressed these issues directly through our local partners, including Ace Africa, which runs Child to Child Health Clubs in Tanzania. Participation in these clubs can be life-changing. Juliet (aged 12) was educated on the dangers of teenage pregnancy and also encouraged to teach others what she learned. She said: “The clubs help us explain to other children not to get pregnant.” 

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Participant of a Child to Child Health Club in Tanzania

HIV/AIDS in adolescents
While the overall number of HIV-related deaths is down, HIV deaths among adolescents are rising. Women and Children First estimates that in sub-Saharan Africa, only 10 percent of young men and 15 percent of young women are aware of their HIV status and many young people do not know how to protect themselves from becoming infected. The stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and the people who are infected, plus the lack of information leads to many adolescents getting infected.

As a child, Kennedy from Kenya attended the Ace Africa Child to Child Health Clubs where he learned about HIV/AIDS, its effects, and possible treatments. He said it changed his whole community, because the children would teach other community members about the disease and prevention. The stigma surrounding infected people was slowly lifted. Kennedy added:

In the club we were also taught about the effects of early and unprotected sex. I noticed a very big change within one year, as teenage pregnancies and school dropouts were not as common.

Prioritising sexual education
Through our Pikin to Pikin radio project in Sierra Leone, children and young adults were encouraged to discuss issues such as sexual health, teenage pregnancies and learned about the dangers of early child-bearing. Gender equality was also an important topic discussed. Girls were instructed how to keep themselves safe from sexual violence and how to avoid unwanted pregnancies. A father in the community commented:

After hearing the broadcast I sat down with my children and told them about the dangers of teenage pregnancy … and how contraceptives can be obtained from Marie Stopes.”

Educating adolescents on sexual and reproductive health is vitally important. The taboo surrounding the topic should be lifted: adolescents should never feel embarrassed to talk to their parents about their sexual health or be too shy to ask for contraceptives at a health clinic. Both boys and girls need to be taught the importance of consent, that forcing someone to have sex is wrong and illegal, and that using a condom can prevent you and your partner from getting infected by STDs. Girls must be empowered so that they know they can refuse to have sex, get pregnant or marry young. Only through realising these rights, can adolescent girls and boys and their families, communities and countries thrive.

The Child to Child Resource Book

The Child to Child Resource Book is one of the most widely used Child to Child publications. Its popularity led it to be translated and adapted into 31 languages.

This Resource Book targets practitioners, trainers, advocates of children’s participation and others. It contains Activity Sheets, which are designed to serve as a model for them to adapt and create materials that suit the context and realities specific to the countries in which they work. The process of adapting, improving and creating materials is an important vehicle through which we can deliver quality health education that encourages meaningful children’s participation in health and development. We hope this book is a valuable step in making the goal of delivering quality health education a reality for the world’s children.

The book is divided in nine parts: Book

1. Child growth and development; 2. Nutrition; 3. Personal and community hygiene; 4. Safety; 5. Recognising and helping children with disabilities; 6. Prevention and cure of disease; 7. Safe lifestyles; 8. Children in difficult circumstances; and 9. Living and coping with HIV and AIDS.

You can download each Activity Sheet below:

1.1 Playing with babies

1.2 Play for Pre-school children

1.3 Understanding Children’s feelings

1.4 Helping children who do not go to school

1.5 A place to play

1.6 Puberty, Parenthood and Sexual Health

2.1 Feeding children 6m-2yrs

2.2 Feeding your children

2.3 & 2.4 Growing and Eating Vegetables + Breastfeeding

3.1 Our teeth

3.2 Looking after our eyes

3.3 Children’s faeces and hygiene

3.4 Clean, safe water

3.5 Our neighbourhood

4.1 & 4.2 Preventing accidents + Road safety

4.3 First Aid

5.1 Children with disabilities

5.2 Helping children who do not See or Hear well

5.3 & 6.1 Helping Children with Learning Difficulties + Caring for children with Diarrhoea

6.2 Caring for children who are sick

6.3 Intestinal worms

6.4 Immunisation

6.5 Polio

6.6 Cholera

6.7 Coughs, Colds, Pneumonia (A.R.I.)

6.8 Malaria

6.9 Bird flu

6.10 Diabetes Mellitus

7.1 Smoking and drugs

7.2 Medicines

7.3 Preventing HIV and AIDS

8.1 & 8.2 Street Children + Institutionalised Children

8.3 Helping children whose friends or relatives died

8.4 Children who experience war, disaster or conflict

9.1 How HIV/AIDS affects children’s life

9.2 No child should be alone

9.3 Building good memories

9.4 Helping each other to cope with loss

9.5 Protecting Inheritance and raising Funds

9.6 Planning for the future

CATS 2015, another step towards active participation of children and young people

July 2015

The third edition of CATS – Children as Actors for Transforming Society – is soon upon us. This year the Caux Palace is welcoming 315 participants, including 168 under-25s, for a programme more participatory than ever, full of space for sharing experiences of children’s participation and debating issues of children’s rights.

One of our five influential keynote speakers is a young man called Kesz Valdez. Three years ago, Kesz won the International Children’s Peace Prize for his remarkable work in the Cavite slums in The Philippines. He has subsequently founded a youth-led organisation called Championing Community Children C3, which strives to improve the day-to-day realities of street children. Kesz is also part of The KidsRights Youngsters, a youth-led advocacy and awareness-raising platform of the International Children’s Peace Prize organisation, that aims to realise children’s rights around the globe.

The other Keynote Speakers are no less inspiring. We will welcome Kirsten Sandberg, Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child; Judith Diers, Child Adolescents Development & Participation at Unicef; Julie Ward, strong advocate for children’s rights at the European Parliament; Nkem Orakwue, Founder/Co-ordinator of the Nigerian Children’s Parliament & Executive Director of TV programmes; and Dimitri Avramopoulos, European Commissioner responsible to EAC for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship.

Children, young people and adults working together at CATS 2014.

Children, young people and adults working together at CATS 2014.

 

Towards creating the partnership between children and adults

Together with the participants, our Keynote Speakers will explore how partnership and collaboration between children, young people and adults are crucial to enabling children’s participation in society.

To ensure that all can participate equally and meaningfully, we have ditched the traditional plenary format! Intead, each morning the 300 participants will come together  to share experiences, debate ideas, and increase their understanding about how to build an effective partnership between generations.

Some of the activities we have scheduled include the ‘Human Library’. Participants will have the chance to become “human books” and tell their stories of children’s participation. We will also develop a global children’s rights timeline and debate the moral dilemmas faced by children and young people. The evening programme will also be interactive, fun and informative. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about the work on children’s rights that the various organisations do in their own countries; take part in a Talent show; and discuss children’s participation through a selection of films on children’s rights issues.

There will also be a series of participatory workshops open to all ages. These workshops will equip participants with new skills and competences to enable them to work more effectively towards realising children’s right to participate, once back home. They will even have the chance to feed into a UN document, the General Comment on Adolescents, commissioned by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. Child rapporteurs from a number of different workshops will help to feed back into a project with the European Parliament for making children’s voices heard on policy issues.

Child participation in action at CATS… and after CATS?

With 315 participants, 26 delegations of children and 43 nationalities, this year’s CATS offers greater potential than ever for impacting on children’s participation worldwide.

Children, young people and adults from the previous editions have told us how they felt inspired by CATS and were determined to take home what they had learned and improve the extent and quality of child participation in their own communities. They confirmed that they would disseminate its core messages: children have the right to be listened to and taken seriously. Society as a whole must aspire to respect this right and put in place the laws and policies necessary to ensure that children and young people have the concrete means to realise it.

 

To read the CATS Newsletters and learn more about the programme, click here.

Working with children and adolescents is critical to change gender stereotypes

March 2015

Interview with Sonal Zaveri, Consultant for Child to Child

Sonal Zaveri started a Life Skills programme[i] in India in 2004 for Child to Child, which has had very positive impact on gender relationships in the communities involved in the project.

Here she tells us more about the programme and its impact on gender.

Designs 8 March5

Can you tell us more about the Child to Child Life Skills programme you ran in India please?

We were looking at the problem of HIV, which not only relates to the virus but is a developmental and social problem. As such, we couldn’t just deal with sexual identities and the roots of transmission; we had to look into gender attitudes. Women and girls are powerless in the transmission of HIV through sexual activity, as they don’t have decision-making power. While discussing these issues we realised that women themselves are not able to articulate, to critically analyse, to negotiate, to be assertive about what they need and require. To change that, we developed the Life Skills programme for vulnerable children – these included very poor children, those from very marginalised casts, street-connected children, children involved in child labour, and children living in very vulnerable situations, such as in red light districts.

How did the programme impact the communities?

Before the programme, there was an enormous amount of stigma attached to people with or infected by HIV. Once children had participated in the programme, we saw them – both boys and girls – come together when someone died from HIV related illnesses and visit their friend who had been orphaned. They also called up social services to take care of those who were ill, whereas previously the community had ostracised and discriminated against them. It was an amazing example of how the divide between girls and boys can be overcome: the programme enabled them to come together as children, and to work together for their families and communities.

Instead of running a knowledge-based programme on HIV (similar to most programmes on HIV, which focus on the roots of transmission), we worked on people’s perception of the risks, their understanding of the gender differences and the power play between the genders. We were also different from other programmes because we believed that unless children are active players and participate in this process, and unless they learn assertiveness and how to make the right decisions, it is not possible to meaningfully talk about HIV (or any other risks, whether it is about emergencies, disasters, etc.) – and expect people to change their attitudes and behaviours.

What added value did the Child to Child’s approach bring to the programme?

We decided to use the Child to Child’s approach for four reasons:

  1. it is participatory,
  2. it is inclusive, making no distinction between rich and poor or any other social division,
  3. it is rights-based and designed to enable children to actively realise their rights, and
  4. it recognises children as responsible actors capable of shaping their lives and the lives of their families and communities.

With these principles at the heart of the programme, we developed lots of activities, linking learning with life and doing active learning.

Designs 8 March3We also followed Child to Child’s philosophy in our approach to gender, by looking at it holistically. We included gender in each and every module, in each and every activity. It was blended into everything, whether we talked about communication, negotiation, problem-solving, decision-making, relationships, or the children’s self-esteem, their identity as a girl or a boy. We were always talking about gender and the issues rising because of one’s gender – the social and cultural norms, how that affects girls and boys differently, etc.

We also recognised that the adult facilitators who work with children bring their own gender baggage so we helped them to work through their own gender beliefs before they began to work with the children. It’s amazing how deep-rooted attitudes go, and women tend to self-stigmatise themselves by saying that they are not capable, that they cannot aspire, that they are not good enough.

We also dealt with the parents, the teachers, those adults who associate with children, and the wider community, to make them understand, support and nurture the changes they would witness in the attitudes and behaviours of their children. Otherwise they’d still be favouring boys and the programme couldn’t succeed. Working with children only is not enough.

Why does gender matter?

Gender is particularly important in the South Asia region – India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka – because gender disparities are huge. We come from a very traditional, patriarchal, sort of feudal culture, so there are inherent issues related to our socio-cultural norms, our attitudes, and they’re very deep-rooted in our culture. For instance there is what is called ‘boys’ preference’, which has led to a decreasing sex ratio because of female foeticide and neglect of girls. There is also a lot of deprivation and discrimination against girls, in terms of their education, the healthcare that they receive, the nutrition that is available to them, etc. Plus, we have the issue of child marriage – girls being married at a very early age, often to older men – and gender violence, which is all over the media since it’s the most sensational. But looking at the deeper-rooted issue, one realises that this is just one symptom; there is an undercurrent which privileges one gender and not the other.

Seeing as it’s very difficult to unlearn what you have learnt, working with children and adolescents is critical for working on gender. Indeed, that’s the time when people begin to understand their community’s social and cultural norms so we can influence what they will bring into adulthood. If we have the opportunity to help boys and girls learn and respect each other’s gender and appreciate who they are, and if we are able to foster empathy between them, to look particularly at gender roles, then I think we are able to influence future generations.

What were the results of the programme?

We found dramatic gender changes. Firstly, boys reported that they started to care more for the girls in their community and that they became extremely protective of them. They stopped eve-teasing (eve-teasing is when boys make denigrating remarks to girls because of their gender and is considered quite normal). The boys reported that when using public transport, they made sure that nobody did anything to the girls or eve-teased them, and they were ready to stand up for these girls. That’s a huge change in terms of the day-to-day life of girls and boys.

Secondly, the boys learnt to respect the girls. Although the mingling of adolescents is really frowned upon in India, parents allowed their children to participate in the weekly meetings because they realised that the boys were treating the girls really well, with great respect, so they didn’t need to chaperone or supervise them. This new mutual respect between boys and girls led to boys’ taking more responsibility for domestic chores and not feeling ashamed about it. This is something that is not what we call ‘normal’ in communities in India. Boys started thinking that they should help their sisters so that they can go to school, because they should not stay at home. And girls were not only supported by their brothers but by others in their community. It became normal, in these communities, for boys and girls to talk respectfully to each other, and for boys to recognise that eve-teasing is a mark of disrespect and that they need to be more caring and have more empathy for the discriminations that girls undergo.

 

[i] The programme was supported by Families Health International (now FHI 360), USAID, Government of India and a number of bilaterals and multilaterals interested in the work for children.

 

To help us challenge gender stereotypes and reach more girls and boys with our award winning work, please donate here.

 

The interview was conducted by Cleo Fatoorehchi, Communications Officer at Child to Child.

Ace Africa’s Child to Child health clubs receive international recognition winning the Stars Impact Award 2014

December 2014

Last Saturday 13 December, Joanna Waddington, Founder and Country Director of Ace Africa Tanzania, attended the Stars Impact Award 2014 ceremony in London. There, she received the Stars Impact Award in the category of health for Africa and the Middle East for Ace’s Community Health & Wellbeing programme, which uses the Child to Child approach. Ace is the largest implementer of Child to Child in the East African region.

Joanna Waddington, Founder and Director of Ace Africa Tanzania, receives the 2014 Stars Impact Award for Health in Africa-Middle East from President Bill Clinton and Stars Foundation Founding Chairman HE Amr Al-Dabbagh. Photo: Andy Aitchison/Stars Foundation

Joanna Waddington, Founder and Director of Ace Africa Tanzania, receives the 2014 Stars Impact Award for Health in Africa-Middle East from President Bill Clinton and Stars Foundation Founding Chairman HE Amr Al-Dabbagh.
Photo: Andy Aitchison/Stars Foundation

Each year since 2001, the Stars Impact Awards has recognised and rewarded outstanding local organisations improving the lives of children in the countries with the highest rates of under-five mortality. With the Award comes a substantial amount of unrestricted funding – US$100,000 in flexible funding and US$20,000 in capacity building support – along with capacity building consultancy.

For Joanna Waddington, this Award “is a huge endorsement of our work, impact and proof of concept.” She added, “We are thrilled that the Stars Foundation have decided to endorse Ace Africa’s work in Tanzania […] We feel very proud of this achievement after just six years of implementing our programme in Tanzania.”

Ace Africa Tanzania’s Community Health & Wellbeing programme focuses on improving the health and wellbeing of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), orphans and vulnerable children as well as the wider community. Their work includes Child to Child Health Clubs, VCT, advocacy days focused on HIV/ AIDS, sexual health, child rights and more, linking PLWHA to health facilities to access ART, provision of mosquito nets, medication and nutritional supplements.

“The Ace club in our school has helped me to know my rights, claiming for my rights and tell others, including my parents about child rights.” – Grace, Katanini Primary School, Moshi District
“The clubs help us to explain to other children not to get pregnant. It encourages them to go to school and to get an education. I want all children to have the same opportunities that I now have.” – Juliet, Olmringiringa Village, Kimnyaki Ward, Rural Arusha Region
“I have managed to transmit the education I get from our Club to home. Currently at my home we have established a leaky tin system for hand washing after using the toilet. Before we did not know the importance of this and were suffering a lot from diarrhoea. I also made a dish rack after washing plates that improves our hygiene.” – Naishiru, Student in Ace Child to Child Club, Engorika Primary School
“Prior to receiving health education and hygiene sanitary materials from Ace Africa, many girls used clothes, rugs and other unhygienic materials and often stayed at home missing at least five school days a month. Now we have the knowledge and are using hygiene material and not missing school days as before.” – Anna, Elkereni CtC school, Kisongo

Ace will use some of the funding to scale up the existing programme, deliver teacher training on Child to Child and establish community-based child rights committees. They also intend to start a new initiative, piloting local, ‘one-stop shop’ health facilities. We wish them luck and will be closely following their future achievements.

 

“I learnt so much within the Child to Child programme!”

November 2014

Norvis Vásquez Vásquez used to be part of a Child to Child programme in his hometown in Nicaragua in the 1990s. Regularly meeting with boys and girls about his age to discuss various topics, from human rights to health to music, his experience with the Niño a Niño club is filled with good memories.

Norvis portrait

 

Can you please tell us about your experience of Child to Child (Niño a Niño) clubs?

I started in 1991, when I was 12 years old, and I stayed with the group until 1994-1995. The programme took place in my community in Estelí, a rural area where I was born. We were boys and girls discussing different topics; it was great, I learnt so many things. For instance, we talked about human rights, HIV/AIDS, respiratory diseases, and we learnt handicrafts.

We also had regional meetings three times a year; and once a year we all met at the capital of Nicaragua. These meetings were generally three days long. It went like this for the first three years, and in 1994 we had an international meeting in Canada. I was chosen to represent one region of Nicaragua; there were five children in total from the whole country who travelled to Canada for two weeks to exchange our experiences about what we did in our programme in Nicaragua. It was an amazing time.

 

What was the purpose of these meetings?

The objective of these meetings was for us to share information about the activities we were involved in in our communities. So, we had many different discussions. Sometimes we discussed health-related topics related to the prevention of illness like diarrhoea and respiratory diseases. Also, if we learnt about new methods to treat or prevent illness, we were expected to take this information home and share it with all the children in our community and also with the parents and the whole community. In a way, we were spokespeople.

We also did cultural activities during these meetings. One time I remember, we learnt how to write poems and songs. And when somebody played the guitar then that was a chance to learn for everyone. We learnt to do things with our hands, for example how to paint or to make puppets. The idea was to learn things that we didn’t learn at school, and to share experiences with children from other communities. We were there to have fun too!

 

What impact did it have on your life?

The Niño a Niño programme had a great impact on my life; thanks to it I learnt things that we normally don’t learn at school. Also, the programme gave us a lot of encouragement, improved our self-esteem and confidence – especially we became more communicative and lost our fear of talking with adults. It also improved our knowledge of our rights as children and how to defend them.

One very personal impact the programme had on me is that it increased my interest in learning languages. Indeed, when we went to Canada, it was a little bit difficult – actually, really difficult – to understand people. We wanted to communicate and tell our story but that was complicated. So when we came back to Nicaragua, I was very enthusiastic about and interested in learning languages – mostly English but also other languages.

 

Are you still in touch with people who were in the Niño a Niño club with you?

Yes, I created kind of a network and I remain in contact with a lot of people from the programme coordination teams, at national and regional levels. For example in 2004 I met one regional coordinator when she was in Rome, Italy.

 

Is your life today related in some way to your Niño a Niño experience?

Definitely. I am currently improving my language skills as I am learning French. After my studies in agricultural engineering in Nicaragua, I did my Master’s in sustainable agriculture in Switzerland so I can more or less speak German. I can also communicate in Italian, English, now French, and of course Spanish.

Also, when I started with the Niño a Niño programme, I had the opportunity to play the guitar and I took it. Thus at many meetings I played during the cultural nights; I even improvised and wrote new songs. Recently I contributed to a video made in Nicaragua about cholera: I wrote one song talking about what measures we could take for that. Now I continue playing guitar, not as a job but for pleasure. I published one album, which you can find on the Internet.

Lastly, I now intend on writing something; maybe not a book but I want to write about my childhood. I think it would be interesting for children today to see how their life is so different.