ECD Marathon Walk a Success

GIS News, 2011

ECD Marathon Walk a Success By Mara Etienne-Manley

‘I believe in Early Childhood Development-Give our Children the Foundation they Deserve’, was the theme for an Early Childhood Development (ECD) Awareness Walkathon that took place in Roseau on Wednesday, November 16, 2011.

A joint initiative of the ChildFund Caribbean, the Roving Caregivers Programme (RCP) and its community-based affiliate, the Youth and Community Advocacy Network (YouCAN), the walkathon was centered around the need to ‘meet the educational and financial needs of economically deprived children in Dominica, particularly those aged 0-3 years’.

The objectives of the event were to raise awareness on the importance of Early Childhood Development and to highlight the achievements of the Roving Caregivers Programme and affiliated organizations as they provide early childhood development services to disadvantaged children in Dominica.

The walk, sponsored by the Caribbean Child Support Initiative (CCSI) and the National Bank of Dominica, formed part of a series of activities commemorating Early Childhood Development month. Hundreds of children, including those of pre-school age walked across town, singing songs and carrying placards in support of the work of the RCP.

The Roving Caregivers Programme was launched in Dominica in July 2004, to provide early stimulation for children from birth to three years of age who do not have access to formal early childhood education. The programme addresses the developmental needs of young children who consequently benefit from quality care and attention, improvement of basic skills, better health and nutrition, and enhanced performance at school.

To date, the RCP has been operating in the communities of Grand Fond, Castle Bruce, Petite Soufriere, San Sauveur, Good Hope, the Kalinago Territory and Atkinson. Approximately 750 children, 250 families and 70 young adults have benefited from the programme thus far.

Coordinator of the RCP Nisbertha Buffong says Early Childhood Education should be seen not as a privilege, but rather a right for all children of preschool age. She also told GIS News that parents must invest in their children’s education in order to secure their future.

“We have come to realize the benefits of [Early Childhood Education] ECD, especially the first three years…they last forever. The experiences that children gain during those first three years determine to a large extent the quality of life that those children will have. How can we develop our human capital if we do not invest in the foundation years… birth to three [years old]? ”.

According to a Press Release from Child Fund Caribbean, sponsorship is the RCP’s primary focus at present, as the main source of funding comes to close at the end of this year. Mrs Buffong said another aim of the walking marathon is to help promote the efforts of the RCP in order to solicit funding.

“We are trying to advocate [for funding] on behalf of the [RCP] programme, since our main funder the Bernard van Leer Foundation terminates its financial support at the end of December 2011. We are therefore trying to engage corporate citizens, public and private sectors to come onboard and help us maintain that programme”.

Child Fund Caribbean is currently working to expand the Roving Caregivers Programme in other communities around Dominica such as Marigot and St Joseph.