Building Healthy Communities for Children

A group of people stand outside a community-based organization in Africa.

Community-based organizations working with vulnerable children are typically organized into three major categories: care and support interventions, cash transfer interventions, and HIV-prevention interventions. These categories are further broken down into specific goals and specializations in the Firelight Foundation Supplementary Issue of the Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies journal. Each of these approaches helps organizations to build healthy communities that meet the needs of their children. We’ve outlined each of these approaches below with some examples from Firelight grantee-partners to show how they work at the ground level.

Care and support interventions include programs at the household and community level, implemented by non-governmental organizations and Community-based organizations (CBOs). The key strategies of this approach include psychosocial, educational, and material support to strengthen the capacity of families and communities. St. Francis Health Care Services in Uganda, a fantastic Firelight grantee partner example of a care and support focus, created an “Idol Shadow Program” through which HIV-positive youth receive mentoring, life skills training, recreation opportunities, health services, and meals. To the south, in Zimbabwe, Esandleni Sothando – another Firelight grantee partner – provides “block grants” to two schools to help repair the premises and purchase textbooks. In exchange, 300 children will be able to attend school.

 Cash transfer programs provide direct payments to families or individuals meeting program inclusion criteria. One of the most striking and devastating impacts of HIV and AIDS on families is the financial impact and exacerbation of poverty. Rigorous evaluations are key to success of these programs, and peer reviewed studies suggest that cash transfer programs can improve the lives of vulnerable children in countries with AIDS epidemics. Traditional cash transfer programs are typically carried out at a governmental level, and are implemented as an emergency measure; not meant as a long-term solution to poverty. Firelight realizes the importance of providing economic and material aid to HIV and AIDS affected children and families, and provides grants in a more sustainable fashion. One such grantee, Action pour le Developpement du Peuple (ADEPE) in Rwanda, provided funding and training in small business management to nearly 60 households. They also linked families to micro-credit institutions to help them access small loans to start or grow their businesses. Another Firelight grantee, Baraka Good Hope Orphan’s Development in Tanzania, takes a more child-centered approach by working to reunite children living on the street with their families. They provide the reunited families with food, clothing, and other goods to ease the economic strain and also provide ongoing counseling to the families.

HIV-prevention programs typically involve school and media based education, targeted at young people (age 10-25) in regions heavily affected by HIV and AIDS, where substantial proportions of intervention participants are likely to be HIV positive. Firelight grantee Masvingo Community Based HIV and Vulnerable Children Organization in Zimbabwe conducts health and hygiene training sessions for children, also supplying them with basic health materials. In Zambia, Firelight grantee Bwafano Community Home Based Care Organization provides mobile testing for HIV and antiretroviral therapy diagnostic services to under-served communities.

For a more in-depth explanation of community interventions and the formation of an evidence-based approach to grantmaking, see Firelight’s Supplementary Issue of Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies

This blog was written by Isaac Hinman, a communications intern with Firelight Foundation. He’s currently a third year philosophy student at the University of British Columbia.