Reflections on recent Early Childhood learning exchange visit
Firelight is working with 18 grassroots organizations in Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia to strengthen their programs in early childhood development (ECD) and their organizational management. Once a year, our ECD Lead Partners come together for a learning exchange visit. This past July, Namwera AIDS Coordinating Committee (NACC) hosted organizations from Tanzania and Zambia for a week-long visit in Malawi. This blog includes a brief update on the outcomes of this fruitful learning visit.
Lead Partners are responsible for providing programmatic and organizational management support to a cohort of 5 organizations in each country. The three Lead Partners were first identified by Firelight because of their quality ECD programming that targets children in greatest need. However, even strong organizations can benefit from opportunities to learn from one another. The purpose of the learning visit was to share best practices, experiences, challenges, and lessons learned over the past 3 years of the Firelight ECD initiative.
Over the years, we’ve been struck by NACC’s ability to build community ownership for their many activities. This learning visit was an opportunity for NACC to showcase the various ways that they engage with the community in order to bring about more sustainable programs. One area of NACC’s programs that inspired the visiting organizations was NACC’s microfinance component of its ECD program. In Chilonga village, two groups totaling 41 community members have raised approximately $450 to support families with small children. Members contribute monthly to the group’s pool of funds. From there, parents are able to take loans from the group’s funds to address the health and nutrition needs of their young children.
Participating organizations Tanzania Home Economics Association (TAHEA) and Mulumbo Early Childhood Care and Development Foundation were equally impressed with NACC’s community mobilization efforts.
“We need to learn how to better work with communities for sustainable programs. The families and communities should own the projects even if the fund is gone the well structured systems remain to operate.” – TAHEA
“I was mostly impressed by the level of active stakeholders/community participation in the running of the ECD centers in Malawi… I would like to incorporate the idea of Village Saving and Loans (VSL) as one way of facilitating economic empowerment for the caregivers in my organization.” -- Mulumbo
We and our partners believe that learning from our successes and challenges is fundamental to our ability to improve the lives of vulnerable children and families. This is why we prioritize opportunities for cross-sharing and learning exchanges. To read more about what we’re learning, visit the Learning Spot.