Making a difference in an unprivileged Community through Early Childhood Development (ECD) Program

"People from the Dalit community of Paiyunpata VDC of Baglung district, 5 years ago, were not only economically backward; but were often socially discriminated by people from the higher strata of society," shares Kishan Pariyar, a social worker for a Dalit community. He adds, "Because of illiteracy, ignorance and other socio-economic factors, their living under unhygienic conditions that contributed to their poor health but now I see a change. "According to Pariyar, children in the community now go to school while parents are aware of education, health, and women speak of their rights. He goes on to express the commitment to continue the ECD Program for the development of the children and the community as a whole.

"I love to play with toys and eat the snacks provided in my ECD center," says Dipson Pariyar, one of the children involved in the ECD Program at Musurabari Bal Bikas Kendra. Ishwari Pariyar, his mother with a smile adds, "My son doesn't like staying home even when he is sick anymore. He is drawn to the ECD Program because of the playing materials, mid-day meals and friends circle." She further says, "Children of this community are lucky they have such facilities even in a far-off rural village like ours because of SWAN."

Another, Shanti Pariyar with a pleasant look on her face says, "My son Hritik Pariyar could not speak a single word until the age of 3. After I started sending him to ECD, I have observed many changes in him. Now he speaks well. He has transformed a lot. Now he washes his hands before eating his meal and after using the toilet. He always greets the elders and often says that his facilitator asks him to stay clean at all times."

Saraswati Pariyar, an ECD Facilitator is of the opinion that the level of health and education awareness seen in the community after the intervention of ECD comes as a surprise. She says, "As a Facilitator, we have been able to relay positive messages to children, women and the entire community. We are extremely grateful to SWAN for bringing a program like this that has transformed the community and brought it to the path of betterment. She giggles while talking about how she never got such kind of learning opportunity when she was small. And happily talk about how she now understands that early education is a lifetime opportunity for children that help them explore their talents, skills and interests."

"The most significant changes I see in my community are amongst parents who have started understanding the value of education and the future of their children," says Kalpana Pariyar, another ECD facilitator. "These kids are imaginative. I am overwhelmed to see the creativity of the young minds. Let's hope early education will help prepare these children to take on life with its limitations while also taking the community to a privileged level."

SWAN launched this ECD support program in the Dalit community in 2011. Keeping in mind the sustainability of the program, SWAN handed over "Musurabari Bal Bikas Kendra (ECD) center" to the community & local school on 19th February, 2016 amid a function.

During the 5 year project in "Musurabari Bal Bikas Kendra (ECD) Center" SWAN with the financial support of Phillip Henmann Trust (PHT) UK, constructed 1 ECD building, with a compound wall and a gate; provided furniture, drinking water facility, repaired windows, doors, rooftops, toilets etc. SWAN also provided this Early Childhood Development (ECD) Center with education materials, playing materials, mid-day meal support, facilitators support etc. In addition to that, SWAN conducted parenting education, basic ECD trainings and Toy making trainings too. Around 150 children between the ages of 3-5 have been benefitting from this joyful learning environment for the last 5 years.

Speaking at the handover ceremony, Ram Prasad Sharma, the School Superintendent of District Education Office (DEO) Baglung said, "Musurabari Bal Bikas Kendra is one of the well facilitated ECD in Baglung which has enough resources, infrastructure, active facilitators that has certainly helped boost a better future for the children. Advocacy, Capacity Building of ECD facilitators, materials support is itself a complete package of quality ECD programs SWAN has provided for the development of rural young children." 

Krishna Karki, Founder and Chairman of SWAN in closing said, "I am happy to be witnessing a social change in the community, the one I envisioned. The community which was living in utter despondence, abandoned by people from the higher class of society and lacking basic awareness about education & hygiene is now a changed society."

By Prekshya Lamichhane, Communication/Documentation Officer, Social Welfare Association of Nepal (SWAN)

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