The last four months have seen the parrot puppets (ZuZu and ZaZa – The Zeds) and I turn up in Brighton – London – the Highlands of Scotland – Edinburgh – back to London – Lisbon, Alagoa and Olhao (these three are in Portugal) – Cambridge – London – and back to the Highlands of Scotland. Here is a photo I took yesterday out of the passenger window.
Apologies NOT to have got a newsletter out during this restless time. Children for Health is still thriving as you will read below.
I’m now sitting in my campervan on Day One out of the two months that I’ll be trying out the life of a Digital Nomad. I’m with my 11-year-old dog, Lia for company – as well as those I meet along the way. I’m starting the journey around the top of Scotland. My grandfather was Scottish, and I’ve always been curious about the country. September seemed a good month as the crowds have gone, as have the clouds of midges (small biting flies)! After months (and months) of sunshine – dark clouds are swirling and next week’s forecast looks pretty grim.
All along, Children for Health work has been conducted in the morning till lunch time and then I’m off exploring!
A memorable moment was sitting at the side of a loch (a lake in Scottish) – working on my laptop on the new toolkit on well-being we are co-creating with our partners in Zambia with the door of the camper van open and the sun streaming in!
The campervan is comfortable and all the campsites in the area have hot showers and wifi. So far, so good (but this is early days and it hasn’t started raining yet)!
We have a wonderful (and very patient) volunteer in the USA who encouraged us to put our storybooks into two collections and then make them available using a ‘print on demand’ mechanism. Not only that, he offered to do all the design work on this.
So we are working on this and should be ready to launch in a couple of months. It’s very much an experiment and as the stories are all about the resourcefulness and competence of children in low resource settings, they would be a brilliant way to inspire children in the UK and the USA to understand the lives of children in other countries and some of the issues they face. It may even lead to children and their educators exploring ways in which children can tackle local health and environmental challenges.
This project has been ongoing for a year and is at the final stages. Kelvin Nsekwila is an outstanding educator in Zambia and has been piloting and helping to develop a programme based on SuperBetter – a set of ideas developed by Jane McGonigal in a book and on an app.
SuperBetter is a programme designed to build resilience – the ability to stay string, motivated and optimistic even in the face of difficulties. We have repurposed the ideas as a curriculum for 10–14-year-olds to use in school and that can then be applied to solving real life problems, like improving nutrition and preventing malaria.
Here is Kelvin working in the classroom with the children.
It will be as per our model – key messages for children to learn and share and then a poster to contextualise what children can do to address and increase inclusivity for children who are vulnerable (such as children with special needs or who lack family support for different reasons). If you are a specialist in this or would like to get involved, then do get in touch – we’d be delighted to have you on our review panels!
Our work with the University of Loughborough and linked to a project in Yucatan, Mexico is proceeding, although there have been substantial delays due to Covid preventing field work.
We are working with mothers and children from the Maya community, a school and with a local university. We are using questions, facts and visual images to mobilise children as activists and measuring the effect. We are also trying to expand the project so that Children for Health can be directly involved in the field work and training.
For now, the project has repurposed and translated our content on nutrition and early childhood learning and we have been working on a new set of messages on physical activity.
Many of you will have been following this project for years. It began in 2011 as a fairly large-scale nutrition programme in one district in Tete Province, Mozambique and was funded by the Danish Government.
The basic idea was to mobilise children aged 10-14 as nutrition activists in their families and communities to tackle chronic undernutrition which is very high among the under 5-year-old children in this district – despite good food being locally available.
School health clubs were used to develop children’s understanding and leadership. We got great results! It was then taken on by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and sat alongside another programme for younger primary school aged children. The government expressed formal interest in adopting the programme nationwide.
We then developed a simplified model with a school in another district in Tete for this purpose. Then, the pandemic arrived. To consolidate our learning since the start of the programme in 2011, we have developed a teachers’ toolkit which also sets out how the programme has developed. Here are the links to the English and the Portuguese versions of this Toolkit.
Do let us know what you think and/or share it with colleagues and others who might be interested in taking a look.
We hope PCAANS (The Participation of Children in Learning and Action for Nutrition and Health) will find a new ‘parent’ to fund and expand the programme. It’s a valued government school-based programme that was developed by children and educators in Mozambique that was tested and has succeeded.
We have been absolutely delighted to develop a storybook with teachers and children at Enkhaba Primary School in Eswatini. The workshop they conducted revealed key issues around stigma, not taking medications (or taking them incorrectly), and a lack of social support for the children and families directly affected.
The children thought about ‘what children can do’ – linked to these issues. They also brainstormed some of the myths currently circulating in their community about how HIV is spread. All those was then wrapped into a story scenario which the children reviewed – suggesting ideas and suitable names for some of the characters. We are now in the final stages of developing illustrations that will work, activities for the back of the book and questions that will help deepen and broaden children’s understanding and inspire them to act in their own lives where appropriate.
The whole process has been slow, partly because of the pandemic, but also political unrest and school strikes in the country. However, it has also been so easy and friendly with the headteacher totally engaged and being my key contact on WhatsApp. We are hoping to develop further work with the school.
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Our blog has been a little quiet lately as we have focussed on getting our social media going but next time we will have lots of links to send.
Best wishes to you all!
P.S. This is me and Lia!