The following article appeared in the Nepali magazine "Navatalas", June 2013. Copyright 2013, Navatalas.
ICRI-Nepal: A holistic approach to child development and health
International Child Resource Institute (ICRI) is a non-profit international organization whose motto is ‘Empowering the Village to Raise the Child’. Since 1981, ICRI has been providing services for families and children around the world, enabling them to survive and succeed. ICRI makes a difference by providing technical assistance and consultation, and conducting projects with a wide variety of national and international partner organizations, businesses, governments, non-profits and others interested in such children’s issues such as community health, orphaned children, vulnerable and displaced children, HIV/AIDS care and prevention, youth empowerment, child care, child abuse prevention, child survival, maternal and child health, placement alternatives for abandoned and traumatized children and promotion of children’s rights. ICRI seeks to lay a strong foundation in all of its programs by utilizing an array of the best international practices in its projects throughout the world. ICRI works closely with the host country governments, NGOs, and institutions to assure that all stakeholders are involved in every aspect of program development, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation.
ICRI began working in Nepal in December 2001 upon the request of NGOs working with children and dependents of prisoners. These Nepali NGOs working with these children of prisoners requested that ICRI act as a facilitator of a new network, to attempt to coordinate their efforts and develop an infrastructure that would allow them to work closely together and share resources. Ken Jaffe, ICRI’s Executive Director, traveled to Nepal in March of 2001 to assist in the establishment of an infrastructure and develop goals and objectives for the network. By the end of March 2002, the Network on Children, Prisoners and Dependants (NCPD) had been created, a local office with a resource center had been established, and a fulltime Project Coordinator had been hired. The NCPD currently coordinates services such as organizing training on pertinent issues such as organizational development, children’s home management, effective planning and child rights advocacy, psycho-social counseling, services for traumatized children, trauma training for teachers, early childhood training and more. Similarly, ICRI-Nepal successfully supplied various equipment and materials to all NCPD homes through Rotary Matching Foundation Grant. A total of 1,340 dependent children of prisoners were directly served by the member organizations. ICRI-Nepal was involved in providing services for 545 prisoners of Kaski and Chitwan District, with the funding and technical support of UNDP-Nepal and UNODC-Nepal, from 2008 to 2010. ICRI-Nepal has also been taking on the role of operation of the Network Seretariate based in Harihar Bhawan, Pulchowak. In 2003, NCPD sponsored the first National Children of Prisoners Day in February, with the support of ICRI. The network is working closely with Nepali government agencies including the Central Government Office, Central Child Welfare Board, the Nepal Children’s Organization (NCO/Bal Mandir), the Underprivileged Children Education Program (UCEP), Prisoners Assistance Nepal, Parizat Nesling Home, and 11 other NGOs and CBOs, and collaborates with more than 20 locally based national organizatioons in Nepal, to provide better quality programs, to coordinate information sharing, and to conduct outreach to more vulnerable children and youth in Nepal. For the first time, these diverse NGOs are working together to cooperatively make a difference in the lives of children. ICRI will continue to facilitate this network through the Network Seretariate to assure that the efforts of many will help ease the challenges faced by children.
National Center for Learning Resources (NCLR): In Nepal, education in pre-primary and primary schools is characterized by educational pedagogies that emphasize rote learning and memorization (without understanding). Almost all the teachers teaching at pre-primary schools, and about half of the teachers at primary schools, are untrained. Those who have some training are often not in a position to use the knowledge and skills they have learned in their training programs, due to the lack of basic facilities, and support from the school authorities and parents. NCLR is deeply involved in transforming the traditional or conventional educational system in Nepal by making early education creative, joyful and meaningful, with an emphasis on character and personality development. The most important requirement in this regard is to improve the quality of education through appropriate forms of teacher training and the development of a school-wide teacher support system.
The NCLR provides human resource training with state-of-the–art technical support to 21 schools, which contain children from primarily low-income families.
During the past year, NCLR has conducted several highly acclaimed Teacher Training Program workshops for educators. In addition to larger scale, multi-day workshops, conducted at a variety of locations, we work with individual teachers at each school on a weekly basis, spending a minimum of 3 to 4 hours assisting them with planning and technical support. Participating teachers also attend regular monthly meetings at NCLR’s office to share the best practices and learn new techniques from each other and from NCLR facilitators.
As part of our NCLR project, we conduct classroom reorganization and reconstruction workshops to assist schools in making classrooms more conducive to learning and child-friendly. Most classrooms in Nepal are in poor condition, with decaying walls, ceilings, doors, and windows, dilapidated furnishings, and few if any educational materials. Beyond these reorganization and reconstruction workshops, NCLR has provided technical assistance and limited funding to individual schools participating in the NCLR Teacher Training Program, facilitating the repair and painting of crumbling classroom walls, ceilings, doors, and windows, and furnishing classrooms with needed materials. NCLR works closely with school administrators to make sure that they utilize their own resources as much as possible to accomplish the work themselves. The entire restructure/reorganization activity has been accomplished with the participation and team spirit of the SMC, community leaders, parents and guardians, teachers, older children, and local and non-local volunteers.
NCLR has received virtually unanimous positive feedback from the teachers and school administrators who have participated in its Teacher Training Programs, in-service training for supervisory personnel, seminars, and classroom reorganization projects. NCLR has been working closely with private foundations, local NGOs, and the Nepali governmental offices to continue the work and find ways to create sustainable solutions to the needs for educational support and reform. Most importantly, as compared to last year, after the intervention of this program in Choyona and Pragati Schools, the enrollment of children has dramatically increased.
Infant Care Facility Improvement Project (ICFIP): The Infant Care Facility Improvement Project was an initiative implemented by Nepal Children’s Organization/Bal Mandir (NCO/Bal Mandir), with assistance and support from ICRI-Nepal. The goal of the project was to improve the care of 90 infants, toddlers, and young children living in 4 units of NCO/Bal Mandir, Naxal. All key stakeholders first evaluated the situations of the orphaned children. Efforts to promote health, safety, and sanitation, and to reduce the incidence of disease and infant mortality, included staffing changes, trainings, and infrastructure improvements. Changes were made to staff schedules by asking caregivers to decide amongst themselves how chores should be allocated. Caregivers were also consulted through a participatory process about leave regulation. A new procedure was developed for caregivers to request paid leave. Caregiver-to-child ratios were established based on the size of the rooms and age of children.
Each room included a trained caregiver from SOS Children’s Homes as well as experienced caregivers from NCO/Bal Mandir. Health, safety, and sanitation improvements included staffing changes and infrastructure modifications to the dormitories and dining facilities. Regular visits of the doctors began and provision of adequate residential nurses in the home was implemented. Caregiving staff were trained about health, hygiene, sanitation, and cleanliness issues. Each child was ensured an individual crib, and policies were put in place to stop the sharing of materials and supplies, and promote a balanced diet for each child. The diet for infants was changed from packaged formula made of refined cow milk, to a formula mixture containing corn, soybean, wheat, and other sources of protein. Meals for toddlers and preschoolers were also changed to promote a more nutritious and balanced diet, with a reduction in refined sugars. Health and sanitation supplies were transferred to the control of individual rooms, with staff training on how to best use the materials and keep them stocked and in a ready-to-use mode. The main materials needed were tallied, and local sources were identified; these materials included diapers, creams for rashes, antiseptic soaps, and anti-mosquito equipment. A sanitation and hygiene system was implemented, resulting in the cleaning and storing of utensils and cooking equipment after meals, orienting caregivers and children on the newly established dining routine and facilities, and delegating responsibility to the assisting personnel such as the cooks, caregivers, and older children.
Since the facility was not designed as a children’s home, it did not have any play areas. An architect was hired to design and oversee modifications to the existing building structure. New structures for drying clothing were constructed and made accessible to staff. Each care room was given a changing table, where the caregivers could change children’s diapers, keep clean diapers, and dispose of used diapers. Sanitizing dispensers with gel were placed in the changing areas for convenience of the caregivers, as well as for use by visitors. A crawling nest for the infants was installed, with adequate safety features, and with stimulating play items and toys. Floors were replaced with high-density foam and carpet. Rooms were repainted, with new curtains added, and some rooms were rewired for electricity. The project also included training and orientation for staff members on the proper use and upkeep of the improved facilities.
Caregiving practices were changed through the hiring of an adequate number of experienced and trained caregivers, and through a series of caregiver trainings and meetings, with ongoing support and mentoring. Initially, there were 16 caregivers involved in the day-to-day care of infants, most of whom lacked training in childcare and development. Three trained caregivers from SOS Children’s Village were brought into the Bal Mandir facility to assist with implementation of caregiving practices and act as role models. Thee trained SOS caregivers were asked to coach the primary caregivers and provide in-house training by residing at the Bal Mandir facility for three months. Great care was made to assure that both groups of caregivers understood and appreciated each other’s importance in the work. Eighteen caregiver trainings and meeting sessions were conducted during the period of intervention. The key objectives of the weekly caregivers training were to: encourage the caregivers to express their opinions and share their problems and concerns; listen to and support one another; discuss the state of the children’s health and well-being; discuss and (adjust as necessary) working schedules, roles, and responsibilities; learn about early childhood development and the best practices for child care; and help encourage teamwork within the care delivery context.
Alliance for Corporate Social Responsibility (A-CSR): ICRI developed the Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative in Nepal in August 2005. The goal of A-CSR is to build tri-partied approaches with and between government, business and local NGOs, to support and co-operate each other to benefit children and families. The main aim of A-CSR is to draw business into focusing on children, not only as a means to improve the day-to-day existence of these children, but as a method of national and regional development that will benefit the business and society at large through a healthy, educated, and capable next generation. This is especially true in transitional and developing countries, with challenges that most profoundly impact first the health and well being of children, and thus deprive the developing countries of the human capital required to advance. The non-market collaboration of A-CSR was introduced in Nepal through the inspiration of the grand success of the globally recognized Molaletsa model under the leadership of Dr. Stephen Simon, Country Director, UNICEF in Botswana. ICRI Nepal launched the A-CSR program amid a colossal event represented by prominent organizations including SAATHI, CCWB and NUSACCI. ICRI-Nepal has developed a model called “Voluntary Agreement” (VA) among developmental sectors and business communities to create a win-win situation for the society and corporate world. ICRI-Nepal has successfully signed the VA with more then 18 national and multinational companies like Aarti Strips Pvt. Ltd. and Dabur Nepal Pvt. Ltd. Nepal. We have been able to make a difference in the quality of life of children and women through this VA.
- The Central Child Welfare Board (CCWB) – the national Nepali government institution that oversees children’s programs in Nepal. ICRI has been requested to assist in the formulation of concept note and proposals for development of Minimum Standard for the Care of the Child and developing a 10-year National Plan of Action for Children (2005-2015).
- Maiti-Nepal - ICRI-Nepal has provided assistance to Maiti-Nepal in the areas of girls trafficking and HIV/AIDS program coordination, management operations, and capacity building. Further more, ICRI-Nepal organized a huge round table program on the issues of trauma of trafficked women in 2005.
- Chatrapati Free Clinic – ICRI-Nepal financially contributed to the construction of mini-hospital wing of Chhatrapati Free Clinic in June 2004.
ICRI-Nepal has been providing consistent child development services directly, as well as giving the required helping hands to their parents in times of greatest need. We invite you to contact us at ICRI-Nepal if you want to help assure that the children of Nepal will grow up healthy, safe, and ready to become the creative, well-educated leaders of the future.
International Child Resource Institute-Nepal (ICRI-Nepal), GPO Box: 25946, Kathmandu, Nepal Phone: 977-1-55-41138, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com www.icrinepal.org