The first few years of a child's life are a foundation that shapes their future development. Creating an environment in which children can grow and thrive is a key part in ensuring their long-term health and happiness.
Planet Aid uses a community development model called Child Aid to address the needs of our youngest and most vulnerable global citizens. This initiative takes into account the importance of the community in raising healthy and productive children, as well as the importance of understanding that the unique needs of communities within their specific local context.
Community development can encompass many things; it may involve developing clean water sources, better local sanitation, or setting up a preschool program. The Child Aid model approaches the challenge of community development utilizing a framework that examines and addresses development challenges across eight basic dimensions.
Over the course of five years, a Child Aid program will work with 3,000 families within a prescribed geographic area (in total reaching approximately 15,000 beneficiaries), spurring them on to take an active role in creating better conditions and embracing opportunities for themselves and their children. The basic principle guiding the program is that in order to create and sustain development, the people must themselves take charge and become the driving force of change.
Child Aid utilizes a well-defined structure in working with participant families. Village Action Groups are the organizational hub of the program. These groups, led by two elected coordinators, are responsible for carrying out the activities of the project and are comprised of between 35 and 40 families each. Special committees are also formed among the VAGs. These committees work locally to discuss and create new initiatives within a given area of responsibility.
Of the ten dimensions of development in Child Aid, some may be emphasized more in a specific context than others. What drives the emphasis are local needs (for example, a village may be suffering from a severe lack of sanitation facilities, which would make health and hygiene a priority at the outset). In addition to the eight dimensions, communities are encouraged to consider and develop their own focus areas beyond the eight dimensions to ensure that local needs are met and that concerns do not slip through the cracks.
Dimension 1: Family Economy
- Providing skills training and small grants
- Building capacity to carry out income generating activities
Dimension 2: Health and Hygiene
- Training covering nutrition, hygiene, and basic health
- Raising awareness of preventable common diseases and HIV/AIDS
- Constructing latrines and other sanitary improvements
Dimension 3: Preschool Education
- Ensuring that children attend pre-school
- Improving existing preschools to adequately accommodate children
- Training teachers as a means to improve preschool programs
Dimension 4: Children as Active Participants in Society
- Establishing Kids and Youth clubs training their leaders
- Carrying out activities that broaden children’s worldview and gives them confidence to reach their potential
- Raising awareness of HIV/AIDS through peer educators
Dimension 5: Children at Risk
- Forming Childcare Committees to support vulnerable children
- Raising awareness in order to end Child Labor
- Obtaining access to schools and health care for handicapped children
Dimension 6: Education
- Training teachers with special emphasis on health, hygiene, nutrition.
- Conducting campaigns to prevent early drop-outs
- Mobilizing people to enroll in vocational training and capacity building courses
Dimension 7: Community Development
- Connecting families with existing public programs
- Actively cooperating with local authorities and other organizations.
- Promoting citizenship for all
Dimension 8: Environment
- Organizing nurseries and seed banks and reforestation campaigns
- Executing cleanup activities and establishing waste management systems
- Establishing vegetable gardens and workshops in organic cultivation methods
Dimension 9-10: Locally Determined
Over the course of 5 years, families participating in Child Aid learn that their community, when organized in a meaningful way, can accomplish great things. The Child Aid model uses a year-by-year approach to decide the particular focus of each dimension, with each year building upon the activities of the last. During the first year, for instance, the program focuses upon the children. This initial phase consists of addressing participants' immediate concerns related to health, hygiene and education. The second year of a Child Aid program focuses on the family, specifically on personal income generation and strengthening food security. During the third year of operation, activities are focused on the community as a whole: schools are renovated, playgrounds are built, and communal seed banks are established. The fourth and fifth years of the project maintain the development momentum created over the previous three years and seeks to broaden the focus. For example, families who have been strengthening their food security would be assisted in broadening the market for their products, both locally and regionally.