Project Protect and Prosper - PPP

 
For the last 2 years HSU has been testing a new and very promising project to tackle head on the main obstacles which research has identified as blighting the lives of hundreds of thousands of young children in Uganda .These are: child abuse including neglectful parenting, poor nutrition, and inadequate hygiene and sanitation. Over 40% of all Ugandan children are adversely affected by one or more of these factors and the cost of this for the nation is incalculable. PPP(Project Protect and Prosper) - is specifically designed to respond directly to each of these threats. Our volunteers are given thorough and specialist training to understand and help parents to deal with these threats to their children's health and well-being in a way that works and that parents say is very helpful to them too. So far the Project has been trialed in just 4 areas in Uganda but initial results are both very significant and encouraging. This is a low tech programme with enormous potential to benefit large numbers of children in a way that families appreciate and by drawing on the boundless enthusiasm of local volunteers.Our ambition is to roll out the programmed nation wide but to do that we need significant new investment. Please contact HSU if you can help.

Service impact of project:
The Project was initiated with a special focus on three identified major challenges found to hamper early childhood growth and development in Uganda namely; child abuse, poor nutrition, poor hygiene and sanitation. Comparing the findings from a an improvised data recordings to serve as a baseline survey is conducted before the volunteer begins visiting families that it at the start of the intervention to an end-line survey conducted after the intervention. Result findings reveal that there was a significant improvement for the majority of families supported. During implementation of the project some mechanisms were put in place that would assist in measuring the impact of the service such as the monthly home visitation reports that were being filled in by the volunteers at the respective scheme offices.

Practice
Initially on recommendation; a needy family in care of very young children (0- 8 yrs.) is identified by a health worker, community leader, social worker, local council leaders, or even self; a needs assessment is carried out to ascertain and determine the extent of need which helps the volunteers to know how best to intervene in supporting the family primarily on matters pertaining to child abuse, poor nutrition, poor hygiene and sanitation in the family using the (PPP_CA-PN-PHS Assessment Form).

Addressing Child Abuse and Neglect
The regular home visiting by our trained volunteers keeps a close watch and follow up on how families are doing and its significant impact on the families especially in minimizing child abuse which is fundamentally a very rampant habit in the homes being perpetuated mostly by parents/caregivers particularly step mothers, and then others like; close relatives that include aunties and uncles, older and young siblings, neighbors and teachers in kindergarten, fellow children at school, even community elders like religious leaders. The volunteers normally attend to several cases of abuse and neglect by the mothers due to their ignorance of the basics of child protection. Breast feeding infants being dumped by their own mothers to their fathers because their husbands are not giving them regular assistance, two year olds being beaten for bed wetting, mothers constantly hauling insults, calling ugly names to their children because they are crying a lot which could may be due to some discomfort, illness or let alone being hungry. In a many homes, Parents have a negative attitude regarding children playing and would end up being punished by denying them food, or beaten. On all these and others the Volunteers have created more awareness regarding combating child sexual abuse that is often times mishandled by the parents and community and usually do not go further to report it to the right authorities due to complacency. With the PPP service parents are informed now on how to pursue such cases and are more vigilant. These and many other several cases constituted a wide spectrum of child abuse that the volunteers encountered and I have managed to create awareness to parents/child caregivers and the community of pertinent issues pertaining to fight against child abuse and neglect. As a result of the intervention, parents and child care givers who have benefited from the service are taking better care of their children, embracing early child hood education some have sent their young children to kindergartens, children are rushed to health centers when they fall sick other than being left to cry for long time or some instances being beaten even locked up in the house or thrown out from the house in the dark at night. Child care consciousness is high amongst parents and child caregivers, and children are living better happier lives than before in families which PPP volunteers have visited.

Poor Nutrition:
Our home visiting volunteers have able to see vivid signs of malnutrition which is culturally or usually a silent home problem because it taken to be a highly sensitive family secret which was found to be a great concern and causing a lot stress to parents/child caregivers and in some instances it has been attached to witchcraft by neighbours or spirits of some long dead relatives that are causing this. While taking into considerations of lots of factors, a general problem of ignorance seemed to cut across in all families. In the case of the infants; a number of mothers did not take breastfeeding of infants to be important and some suspecting to having HIV/AIDS had been advised not to breast feed at all for they will die early. In other homes the volunteer discovered that parents/childcare givers were denying the children nutritious foods like eggs, ground nuts, beans, and instead sold them in the market to buy meat only, the provision of fruits to the children was not a bother, fruit trees were being cut down for firewood and charcoal, avocados would rather be given to pigs and cows instead of children or well preserved sold to generate income to cater for the children's needs.

With home visiting, volunteers discovered and mitigated families that were surviving on one meal a day which is comprised of maize flour bread and beans alone, and some would sometimes miss a day or two in a week without being able to secure food. The children would survive on begging food from neighbours or picking anything they could find until some food is got. Many of these cases are not reported and more so to whom can they report it to? Furthermore, through home visitation the volunteers were able to impart knowledge of food preparation to parents or child caregivers who had no or little skills or knowledge of food preparation, balanced diets, sometimes information on delicious but simple recipes that are manageable by the families. In cases where PPP was one unique service that seemed to understand and take action while devising sustainability mechanisms together with the parent or child caregiver as result; some families have set up back yard/kitchen vegetable gardens where securing green vegetables in their diets was a challenge; eggs, fruits and other nutritious foods are not all just being sold off now to markets but rather given to the young children to grow well because they clearly understand the simple concept that; ‘food is medicine'. The practice of regular feeding of children is being adhered to; for cases of severe malnutrition identified parents/child caregivers have been provided with a hotline to the respective District Health & Nutrition Units to handle the cases. The signs of good feeding of young children are now clearly visible by the look on their bodies and cheerful faces, healthy and generally many of the children reached by the project are jollier and healthier and not hungry anymore.

Poor Hygiene and Sanitation
Issues of poor hygiene and sanitation are a great concern in at risk families in care of young children. The evidence of poor hygiene and sanitation are always noticeable during home visitation and volunteer have endeavored to mitigate the best way they can because of their formidable nature. Matters of cleanliness do pause a big challenge to poor families and the volunteers encountered families with dirty clothing, both on the part of the parents and caregiver, untidy bodies; teeth, ears with overgrown hair, nails, dirt and filth around their homesteads, some families jigger, lice and bedbug infested, bushy surroundings which are breeding for mosquito/rats/snakes, dirty water sources (wells), dirty rooms with poor ventilation, sharing the same house with pigs, chicken/ducks, goats, dogs etc., poorly maintained and dirty utensils usually placed anywhere in the house, poor or not toilets/pit latrines, no hand washing facilities, poor bedding children sleeping on bare mats/sacks on hard surfaces and some poor housing structures. During home visitations, the volunteers work along with the parent/child caregivers to improve conditions in and around the homesteads where by the project provided basic support like soap/detergents for washing and cleaning. Parents were encouraged and made to improve the conditions around the homes such as; Parents and children now try keep their bodies clean, jiggers treated, well-trimmed hair, clean short nails, the court yards and inside the house are clean and they avoid any form of litter, utensils are well cleaned put out to dry on raised racks and kept out of reach from rats, cockroaches, flies etc., drinking water is now boiled, clean modest bedding for children are being provided, clean pit latrines have been put in place, garbage is well disposed, animals and birds have been removed from main housed and separate structures put in place, wells where drinking water is got are well maintained etc. this and others are all good indicators that the PPP service made and impact towards improving the livelihoods of about 400 young children and parents/child caregivers in 130 families.

Observations
The gross ignorance in the communities about the value of early childhood development which is severely hampering the quality of child protection and care services. Therefore, quality and comprehensive service provision will enable HSU PPP to realize their aspirations, improve children and parents living conditions and participate more effectively in society. Mainstreaming early childhood development in all aspects of policy and legislation, effective implementation and enforcement of existing child protection provisions will contribute to poverty alleviation and social economic inclusion of children under 8 years in Uganda. It is the joy of the Home-Start Uganda that they can offer their love and support to the Parents/child caregivers in at risk families. But it is most saddening when they too are helpless in this situation and it is therefore our sincere desire that more resources can quickly be made available to sustain the momentum so far created, and we are convinced that Home-Start yet the best simple grass root programme that Africa has ever known in creating Happy Children and Parents – Families – Communities – Nation and World.

Strategies for Action
Massive awareness is yet to be carried out within the community and Government to address the problem of vulnerable parents/ child caregivers with young children. Scaling up advocacy efforts not only by HSU but also other stake holders to debate early childhood development issues especially; poor parent and child protection skills, poor nutrition, hygiene and sanitation in families.


Project Protect and Prosper Stories

‘Mary pegs on hope against all odds'
Okwir Mary's husband, a former civil servant had lost his job a couple of years ago and had not yet been successful in finding another. Mary on the other hand, had been forced to become a full time house wife with six children and two of her daughters are disabled and needed full time care. One was born crippled, while another was born dumb and deaf. The condition of her children coupled with the financial strain had taken a heavy toll on Mary placing her appearance several years ahead of her actual age.

Life became so hard in the family in a way that, they couldn't afford to have a nutritious meal to feed on. She became so hostile that she could even punish the kids without doing anything wrong and then her own kids feared to be around her. Mary became so frustrated and depressed and was contemplating to commit suicide because she couldn't get help from any one.

One Sunday morning after the church service, she heard me telling some couple about a family program that provides support to families with children under 8years. She immediately joined us and by end of our short meeting she invited me over to come to her house the following day but I told her that she first has to come to the office and explain her condition to the coordinator who will officially match me to her for further management of her case.
Two days later I paid my first visit to Mary's home in Kisaasi and, I found her beating Immaculate her 4 years old child and there my task began by counseling her on dangers of child battering. I talk to her and gave her advice on how to deal with such a problem in a good way but not to beat the kid because this can ruin the kid's future and could likely turn out to be very aggressive in adulthood.

On the following visits we continued sharing issues concerning early childhood development, proper feeding of young children and the family as whole and other parenting skills, we discussed about how the children are fed and since she was financially unstable she told me that it was hard to afford buying food which contains all the nutrients that are necessary for a well-balanced diet. I helped her to start up a “sack home garden” where she started planting vegetables in sacks filled with soil by the sides of the house. The vegetables came up very well, she was able to consume some and sold the surplus that gave her extra income that enable her to buy other nutritious foodstuffs to compliment the diet and other household necessities.

While the hardships and challenges of raising six children, two of whom are disabled still press on, Mary can afford a smile as she carries her cross with gratitude to Home-Start's initiative of supporting families with children under eight years and as I left after my last visit she said, “I feel comforted by your visit. Your interest in my children implies that people out there think about me and wish me well, thank you Home-Start”.

Family Story 2

Namusoke Catherine a resident of Kulambiro (a Kampala City Suburb) and a single mother of a 3yrs girl had heard about a peer parent program from the community. She had been depressed because of the poor health condition of her daughter and needed any support she could find. One morning she paid a visit to the scheme office complaining of her daughter who keeps fainting every morning suspecting that its witchcraft by the neighbors. She was matched to Agnes a Parent Volunteer who on the following day visited her at home to give her support. On visiting Catherine's home, little Suzan was lying down but looked sad and malnourished .

I tried to bring a smile out of her but she was in deep sadness and the mother began insulting her, and also picked up a stick to beat her because she had not welcomed or got out to greet me. I immediately intervened to stop Susan from being beaten and rebuked. I pleaded with the mother to cool down her temper and had a parent to pare discussion and tried to find out why Susan is so sad . Catherine reveled to me that she herself grew up without a father who abandoned their mother while she was still pregnant and so her daughter Susan must learn to grow up as a strong woman. Upon this revelation I began counseling Catherine and explaining to her about the dangers of being too hard on a young child like Susan and shared concepts on early childhood development that she should be aware of and take into consideration while raising up a child. I advised Catherine to save some little money from her merger salary so as to provide nutritious meals such as eggs, greens, and fruits to the child and invited both of them to come to the family drop in-day where she will have the chance to meet the Pediatrician who will advise her about Susan's fainting condition .

Catherine was able to get good advice from the Pediatrician and began providing Susan with nutritious foods and one month later Catherine reported no case of fainting and the depression subsided, Susan began to smile whenever I paid a visit and did not hear any hush words from Catherine again. Suzan this year joined nursery school where she is doing well in class and no longer sad. I meet Catherine regularly and always grateful. Catherine has since then been referring fellow parents experiencing difficulties from her community to Home-Start.

Donate To Project Protect and Prosper

What about the vulnerable children during their critical time of brain and physical development 0-5 yrs? Who cares about the vulnerable parents or caregivers, caring for very young children in time of desperation? Please support us as we work to strengthen vulnerable families with young children through practical help, support and friendship. Home-Start Uganda is a Ugandan registered charitable organization, and urges you to make contributions towards ‘Project Protect and Prosper'
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