April 12 2021
Vocational training is central to our goal of empowering the poor in India. Started in 2014 with a few workshops, the initiative has quickly grown into a full-fledged program that is operating success...
Early childhood is a crucial time in a person’s life. From the earliest age, a child needs a healthy, stimulating, and caring environment to foster personal growth.
The Millenium Development Goal 4.2 aims to ensure that by 2030 all girls and boys will have access to proper care and development activities from early childhood. Progress has been made in this area over the past several decades, but efforts must continue. Still too many children go without food, play, or love. According to a World Health Organization report on early childhood development, “developing countries account for roughly 150 million children under the age of 5 suffering from malnutrition.” It is imperative that we fight against malnutrition, abuse, diseases and emotional neglect — so that all children have the same opportunities to grow.
Early Childhood Development is a major area of activity for Karuna-Shechen: we strive to encourage a fulfilling childhood from early on, so that each child may build her or his best future.
From the youngest age, a child starts to learn through play. Games promote knowledge acquisition and capacity-building in all areas, including cognitive, physical, linguistic, social, and emotional. Playful activities contribute to a child’s personality development and discovery of the world, by expressing her or himself freely, acting upon the environment, and interacting with others. The child shares personal ideas and listens to others’, thereby making social ties which fulfill the need for affection.
Play offers a space of freedom and enjoyment where the individuality, creativity, and intelligence of the child can be expressed. Letting her or him play and decide autonomously, without adult intervention, activates imagination and self-learning skills. In free play, the absence of rules allows for greater freedom to experiment and discover; it also provides an exploration ground where the child is not afraid to fail, enabling her or him to solve problems and make the right decisions. It promotes self-assertion and confidence building.
At Karuna-Shechen, we are convinced recreational activities should be an integral part of education programs. They play a major role in knowledge and skills acquisition and help children grow and thrive in a way that best suits their condition.
In Bihar and Jharkhand, the poorest states in India, Karuna-Shechen operates in public early-childhood centers that have been largely inoperable due to overcrowded classrooms, children “parked” in small spaces, no teaching material, missing or untrained staff, or poor teaching practices. As a result, children get bored and suffer emotional distress which often leads to conflicts between them or with the educators. Without games, they have nothing to do and may experience significant delays in their development.
Witness to this situation and driven by compassion, Karuna-Shechen has developed since 2014 a support program for early childhood through play and creative activities.
First, we train preschool teachers on the role of the adult-facilitator, the benefits of play, the contents of game kits, and organizing activities. With this training, educators have the necessary tools to accomplish their work, and they become active participants in the education of children.
Daulaut Kumari, educator in Baglati, shares her enthusiasm: “I am very happy with Karuna-Shechen’s support. Before, we had no materials. Now, I will have more time to play with the children. I’m sure they will benefit from these new activities.”
We then provide the preschools with equipment for play and creative activities. With the indoor game kit, the room can be divided into four areas: a quiet and resting space with mattresses and development toys for the youngest children, a space with building sets, another for symbolic games where children can play house with dolls and dining sets, and the last for representative play, offering cars, human figurines and animal toys. The outdoor game kit invites children to spend their energy with balls, hoops, stilts, and bowling pins. The creative kit contains all that is needed to set up drawing and coloring sessions.
In 2018, our actions benefited over 5,800 children in 160 nursery schools in India. Our goal for 2019 is to extend this program to 40 new centers.
This program is a real success! We have seen considerable progress in childhood development and, more importantly, the children are happy and active! They are no longer bored, and they laugh and play together. There are fewer conflicts between children and with the educators. The playful setting allows for natural development of empathy and cooperation. Children that were previously withdrawn can now express their feelings and moods. Games provide opportunities for laughter and enjoyment, brightening every face.
Previously lacking, the preschools we support are now places that stimulate the development and education of children, places where they can thrive, enjoy themselves, and acquire useful life-skills.
Let’s act together for our education, our future! By giving children games and toys, we can give them a better future.
March 12 2021
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