iACT

  • Project Contact: Katie Jay Scott
  • Title: Chief Operating Officer
  • Email: ktj@iactivism.org

  • Economic Opportunity, Education, Health, Human Services

  • Cameroon | Chad | Jordan

  • Economically disadvantaged people, Children and youth, Students, Refugees and displaced people, Women and girls

  • Public charity

  • $462,763 (2015)

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Executive Summary

According to the UN Refugee Agency, half of the world's refugees today are children (1). That's 30 million children who have been forced to flee their homes - leaving behind their schools, stability, and community, and losing family and friends. Children under five - those whose brains and bodies are in their most critical developmental stage - face additional challenges as the physical deprivation, psychological trauma, and inadequate cognitive and social emotional development can have long lasting impacts on their ability to learn, grow, and recover. Many humanitarian actors recognize the importance of early childhood development (ECD), yet on a large scale, ECD remains seriously under prioritized in emergency and protracted response. In order to address this, iACT works in partnership with refugees to adapt an innovative, early childhood development model, called Little Ripples, that cultivates young children's potential through in home, play based learning. (1) UNHCR. (2016). Figures at a Glance: Global Trends 2015

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The Problem

According to the UN Refugee Agency, half of the world refugees today are children. That's 30 million children who have been forced to flee their homes; leaving behind their schools, stability, and community, and losing family and friends. Children under five; those whose brains and bodies are in their most critical developmental stage - face additional challenges as the physical deprivation, psychological trauma, and inadequate cognitive and social emotional development can have long lasting impacts on their ability to learn, grow, and recover, and thus on their future potential. Many humanitarian actors recognize the importance of early childhood development (ECD), yet on a large scale, ECD remains seriously under prioritized in emergency and protracted response. Over 60 percent of 2016 humanitarian flash appeals and refugee response plans do not include comprehensive ECD services or early childhood education (1). As a result, ECD programs are chronically underfunded and responses are unable to tackle the problem. While ECD Safe Spaces are offered, these efforts tend to be fragmented. In eastern Chad camps and from conversations with global education practitioners, iACT found that solutions struggle to avoid a top down approach, particularly if community resources have been disrupted and if external partners have limited capacities. Furthermore, in some contexts, teachers from the local community are strictly employed, missing a critical opportunity to invest in the human capital of refugees and connect education and recovery to the child. (1) Theirworld. (2016). Safe Spaces: The Urgent Need for Early Childhood Development in Emergencies and Disasters.

Proposed Solution

iACT's solution is Little Ripples (LR), an early childhood education model that builds the capacity of refugee women to co create and implement a program to immediately address the social emotional, cognitive, and physical development of refugee children. The direct beneficiaries are refugee children ages three to five and women over the age of 18. The direct outcomes are the increased capacity of refugee women to implement quality early childhood education (ECE); increased number of children accessing customized, quality ECE; and improved social emotional, cognitive, and physical development of children. The Little Ripples model is designed to be scalable, durable, and cost effective without compromising quality education. Unlike traditional early education models, LR utilizes local resources efficiently, a play based curriculum addressing trauma, and is a quick out of the box set up adapted by each beneficiary community. Little Ripples is uniquely hosted in the home spaces of refugees (each space hosting LR is then called a Pond), eliminating costly and timely construction of schools and creating a more cost effective and community oriented solution by reducing the barriers of distance, safety, and time for children and teachers. In order to ensure sustainability, LR empowers women and cultivates ownership by recruiting, training, and employing women to co create, implement, and manage LR in their community. The LR curriculum includes ECE best practices and is built on play based literacy and numeracy, social emotional learning, positive behavior management, mindfulness, and nutrition. This solution was chosen based on its success with refugees in eastern Chad and from the accolade received from peers in the humanitarian field.

Evidence of Effectiveness

An outside evaluation by the University of Wisconsin Survey Center has tested and validated the cost effectiveness and impact of the program on the children. Little Ripples was initially implemented in May 2013 in refugee camp Goz Amer, eastern Chad, as a school based model, employing 13 teachers and serving 400 children. In May 2014, iACT conducted a one year assessment of the pilot. Results showed improvements in children's physical, mental, and emotional health and cognitive development; their family and social environments; and empowerment of female teachers. Caregivers reported: improvements in their children's negative social and emotional health (being unhappy and restless); their children being more talkative, playful, and helpful at home; increased handwashing practice after using the latrine and before meals; and themselves having more time for opportunities to seek income and food for their family. An increased number of children were able to name colors, animals, and the alphabet, and count to ten. Qualitative interviews demonstrated an increase in teachers' confidence, knowledge, and management skills. In 2015, LR shifted to an in home model and has since been implemented in three homes across refugee camp Goz Amer, reaching a total of 535 children and employing 2 Education Directors, 19 teachers, and 10 cooks. The initial feedback from teachers, parents, refugee leaders, and UNHCR was very positive. Caregivers feel more connected to their child's education experience, and teachers feel more ownership of their classroom home space. More children are consistently attending school, and UNHCR requested that the solution is scaled in eastern Chad.

Previous Performance

iACT's strength is its ability to enter a community, listen, build strong relationships with refugees and on the ground actors to co develop innovative, cost effective programs. iACT has formed a deep trust with the Darfuri refugee community and has become an expert in eastern Chad and in refugee led solutions. In 2010, iACT began financially supporting primary schools in eastern Chad. In 2011, iACT began to develop Little Ripples and in partnership with the UNHCR and Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), LR has trained and employed 37 female teachers and is now reaching 550 children. Launched in 2012, the Right to Education Mobile Human Rights Library builds community capacity by providing space and materials for refugees to learn about and address their human rights. In collaboration with UNHCR and refugee leaders, iACT launched Darfur United, an all refugee men's soccer team that has since competed in two international tournaments. In partnership with refugees and JRS, iACT has implemented and expanded the Refugees United Soccer Academy. The Academy currently reaches 5,078 children ages 6 to 13 across five camps in eastern Chad and 670 children in one refugee site in Cameroon. In addition to iACT staff, Little Ripples has a core team of Expert Advisors who bring expertise in early childhood education, trauma relief, social justice, and meditation. Advisors assist in the creation of the LR play based curriculum, age appropriate tools for trauma relief, the daily educational structure addressing the unique needs of refugee children, and the participatory teacher training curriculum.

The Team

Team Purpose

iACT's mission is to aid, empower, and extend hope to those affected by mass atrocities. iACT provides the tools and training necessary to create a new culture of participation for people responding to and facing humanitarian crises. This translates into national advocacy campaigns, leadership training, and on the ground refugee led education, sports, and human rights programming. Our proposed solution is Little Ripples (LR), an early childhood education (ECE) model. We believe that ECE can break the cycle of violence which is endemic to refugee populations. Little Ripples was initially developed with Darfuri refugees who fled genocide and have been living in camps in eastern Chad for over a decade. Little Ripples addresses the development and educational needs of young children in order to empower communities affected by violence and displacement to lead a more peaceful future. Since implementing LR, iACT has identified that ECE is seriously under prioritized across refugee contexts globally.

Team Structure

The Little Ripples (LR) team structure includes the iACT Los Angeles based team members Founding Executive Director, Director of International Programs, and Chief Operating Officer, Operations Manager; expert advisors in early childhood education and trauma relief; an all refugee team of Camp Coordinators, Education Directors, and teachers, and cooks; and in country partner organization Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). The iACT team and expert advisors were pivotal in the initial design, development, and implementation of LR, and now conduct monitoring and evaluation, oversee the scale up of LR and work to expand and share the model globally. In refugee communities, LR is implemented and managed daily by an all refugee team: teachers implement the program six days a week, Education Directors collect weekly reports and ensure the program is being implemented as planned and Camp Coordinators provide general oversight and coordinate with other humanitarian agencies. Jesuit Refugee Service supports LR with in country logistics and operations, delivers salaries to the LR refugee team, conducts monthly monitoring and provides opportunities for LR to expand to other refugee camps where JRS operates. iACT has a Board of Directors that meets quarterly to review and approve opportunities regarding the LR budget, scale up, and three year strategic plan.