Describe your idea in fewer than 50 words.
We train volunteers from deprived rural villages to run self-sustaining centres for pre-school children. The centres help children learn through play, promote good hygiene, and empower the volunteers who run them.
What makes your idea unique?
We set up community-run Play Centres, which provide a free educational and recreational resource for hundreds of children. Our project is unique because it is self-sustaining, cost-effective, community-run and extremely scalable.
Firt, rather than make the centres dependent on external assistance, our idea is to enable communities to build their own capacities so that they can use local resources and talents to sustain the project. We work with volunteers - women and youth - from deprived rural communities in Ghana and Uganda to help them set up and run their own play centres for children aged 3-6 years old. This demonstrates to the volunteers, that even if they have not been educated themselves, they still have an important role to play in their child's education.
In the play centres children develop through play and learn about good health and hygiene. The play centres are free of charge and give the children a unique opportunity to play practical, stimulating and interactive educational games.The children achieve their fullest potential and the volunteers gain the skills and confidence to promote their children’s wellbeing and find ways out of poverty.
The games are made from locally sourced and commonplace objects. This again helps the centres to be sustainable.
The project has a large and quick impact. Each play centre benefits at least 120 children and 30 volunteers.
Our programme is designed to be cost-effective and to demonstrate that there are practical ways to make improvements without the need for large sums of money. Our annual budget is just $20,000. The capital cost for each centre is approximately US$300
The project is extremely scalable. It is very cost-effective to roll this project out on a wider basis and across many communities.
What is your area of work? (Please check as many as apply.)
Children & Youth
, Child care
, Early childhood development
, Youth development
, Youth leadership
, Community development
, Health education
, Youth leadership.
What impact have you had?
We have been operating this project since March 2008. In that time we have set up 10 play centres in Uganda and 5 in Ghana. These have provided a free and sustainable resource for over 2000 children. We have trained over 400 volunteers.
The centres help the children achieve school readiness. The activities are designed to be interactive, educational and enjoyable and allow the children to learn through play.
Our volunteers have gained leadership, teamwork skills and confidence in their own abilities. Volunteers are now making their own games out of local resources. Volunteers have also requested that we provide further interventions and training courses to continue to build upon the skills they have developed.
The centres promote good health and sanitation practices. The children have to handwash with soap before using the Centre. Handwashing with soap is one of the most effective ways of reducing life-threatening diarrhoeal and respiratory diseases. Introducing this practice in the play centres is an effective method of sensitising children to this vital practice as handwashing becomes associated with an enjoyable activity. We also introduce “tippy taps” in the villages where we work. These are foot-operated water dispensers. Each volunteer is given a tippy-tap for their households. Volunteers have reported a reduction in diahorrea.
Describe the primary problem(s) that your project is addressing.
Children are the world’s most important resource and are entitled to the best possible start in life. However there are a number of problems impeding universal access to quality education.
School attendance, particularly amongst girls, is frequently delayed or disrupted as children are expected to assist with household tasks, such as fetching water or income-generating activities. Costs associated with schooling, such as uniforms, transportation and stationery, are often prohibitively high.
Schools are plagued by large class sizes, lack of resources and lack of teachers. Low literacy levels and rote-style teaching methods combined with a lack of toys, books and other stimulating resources means that children are deprived of the opportunity to develop critical learning skills.
Parents often believe that they lack the skills to help educate their children.
We believe that many of these problems can be effectively tackled with small-scale and cost-effective interventions. We also believe that parents have an important role to play in educating their children, even if they have not been educated themselves.
Our Play Centres provide children with a unique opportunity to learn and experiment with practical, stimulating and interactive educational games. Play enables children to acquire information, ideas and skills. The components of play – curiosity, discovery, novelty, risk-taking, trial and error, social etiquette– are the same as the components of learning. When children are playing they are building a strong foundation for all future learning.
Describe the steps that your organization is taking to make your project successful.
We adopt a fully participatory approach to ensure that the project is community-owned. We work closely with the communities where we work to explain the objectives and aims of the project. We spend 2 months training volunteers to give them the skills and confidence to run the play centres.
We have a rigorous monitoring strategy. Our volunteers are organised into committees and each centre holds monthly committee meetings. Lively Minds staff provide ongoing support and further training activities to continue to educate and develop our volunteers.