Tag: Early Childhood Care and Education

Taking it to the street – literally!

In the last few weeks Sujatha led a record number of HHI parenting classes, all of these were in small and very remote villages in southern India. However what made me these particular trainings amazing — beyond the usual witnessing of young mothers discover their own power in building their baby’s brain development, and all the loving-goodness — was that these trainings were held in the middle of a street. Yes, a street.


When Sujatha arrived to lead the trainings, the local organizers led her to a small community room, which must have been really, really small, as she reported that the room would have held about 6-8 women. Gathering behind Sujatha, as she walked to and then viewed this tiny space were the mothers, lots of mothers! In total 28 mothers, all with babies and children in tow, were following her to make sure that they would have a space in the Hands to Hearts training, and it seemed they knew space was limited.

Seeing all of the women, and turning back to look at the training space, it was clear that this was not going to work. The women talked and quickly concluded that there was plenty of space outside the tiny room and the women all agreed that they would happily sit in the middle of the street as long as they could participate. The village leaders offered a shady street to be turned into HHI’s classroom. The village vendors, pulling their carts would come upon the street only to see it filled with mothers and children conducting puppet shows, singing songs and dancing, and they would find another way to get to the market. Men, women, grandmas, grandpas and kids all walking, biking or driving through the village came upon the same scene, and often before they would go to find a way around this training, they would sit and become a part of the training themselves.

I have always claimed that HHI Trainings could really happen anywhere in the world, but I had never considered a street.Bravo to these women for not letting anything get in the way of their learning, and kudos to Sujatha for her endless creativity, flexibility and tenacity in giving!

Orissa Shines!

Our Orissa partners, Viswa Yuva Kendra (VYK), have been working with HHI for almost 2 years and they have not only been enthusiastic in leading HHI‘s training throughout their state, but they have been busy! Since July of 2007, they have led 46 trainings, for ICDS workers (similar to the US’s Head Start teachers), creche center workers, village mothers and orphanage caregivers. In total, they have trained 582 women!

And, they are only gaining momentum, having just trained in a new HHI Trai ner, Bharati, who comes to HHI with years of experience in leading public health trainings in the community.

This group clearly is enjoying Bharati and the fun of learning about how children learn.

My gratitude goes out to Manoj Mohapatra for his leadership and advocacy, Tapaswini Panda for her excellence in training and to Bharati, our newest team member.

HHI Reports from Budapest

I am writing from Budapest, Hungary, from the International Step by Step Association Conference on Early Childhood Education and Democracy (link). I have been here for the last several days with our colleagues Christine Chaille and Frank Mahler, who designed HHI’s curriculum and are affiliated with Portland State University. This conference, the people, the amazing work that is being done around the world and simply the stunning location of Budapest, have all been a treat. The opening reception of this conference was hosted at the Hungarian Parliament, the most beautiful and opulent building I have ever had the privilege of visiting.

I must admit that when I learned about this conference, I was excited about all of the fascinating people and programs I would learn about and I encouraged Christine and Frank to help me design papers to submit in hopes that we could somehow present about HHI’s important work to this international group working on early childhood issues. I was honored and a bit astounded, to find that all three of our papers were accepted here and we were eagerly invited to present HHI amidst the likes of representatives from the global world leaders in early childhood development, Country Ministers of Education, the World Forum, and papers regarding early childhood work/research of Harvard University, UNICEF supported programming, and so much more.

We just completed our 3 papers all about the creation, success, design and future applications of HHI and I am delighted to report that we were received with great interest and some new potentials are now in discussion. I will hopefully have more news about all of this to share with you soon.

HHI is Invited to Present at Conference in Budapest!

WooooHooooooooooo! HHI has been invited to present about our work at the International Step by Step Association’s (ISSA), conference this October in Budapest, Hungary. The ISSA is an innovative network of early childhood education and development professionals and organizations. This year’s conference focus is Active Citizenship: Democratic Practices in Education, and it organized in partnership with the World Forum Foundation.

HHI’s curriculum designers and on-going advisers, Christine Chaille, PhD and Frank Mahler, MS, will be going with Laura Peterson to Budapest to share about all that we learned over the course of creating a curriculum for early childhood development that is empowering to caregivers and culturally adaptable for use around the world. The focus of Christine and Frank’s talk will be on their discovery that social and educational inequities begin in the cradle, far before the child even arrives at school. Children raised in severely impoverished or compromised settings, particularly in institutional care, miss mountains of stimulation – language, touch, reading facial expressions, communication, creating relationships, learning trust and exploring. These are things that most parents take for granted, they are interacting with their babies all the time. Considering that about 80% of brain development happens before the age or 3 years-old – consider how much can be lost? Whatever brain development does or does not happen, the child (then the adult) has this amount to build on for the rest of their lives! Just pause to consider the implications of this!

This is all why HHI is designed to be culturally adaptable, to be used around the world, wherever we can help the local leaders to create a foundation of knowledge and practice that they can apply every day to build their future communities with the best hearts, brains and citizens possible.

And, so we prepare to go to Budapest!

Hands to Hearts to Train India’s ICDS Teachers

This morning I just received some spectacular news from India!

Last August when I launched an HHI site in Kerala, I met with a District representative from India’s Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) program, similar to the US’s Head Start Program. ICDS is the largest early childhood development program in the world and is supported by UNICEF and World Bank. HHI trained some of their teachers and they all found it very useful and applicable in providing improved care for the children they serve – who are exclusively from India’s poorest families. Nine months ago, I proposed a contract to have HHI train all the ICDS teachers in the Kottayam District of Kerala, where they serve more than 30,000 children. The contract is finally getting signed and this means that our HHI Trainers will lead 2 trainings per month for the next year = HHI training for 240 women, bettering the health and care for 2,400 children! (Remember that this is at only one site, with 1-2 HHI trainers – minimal costs)

The state of Kerala is considered one of India’s most progressive and usually leads the country in health initiatives and innovation. I am hoping that next year, this will lead to a state wide contract for HHI with government funding, and then in 3-5 years to a country wide contract. This would mean that in the next 5 years HHI’s reach would grow exponentially – I cannot even project the numbers for the women and children we could reach! I would like to see countries take this on as a part of their health care policy… just maybe India will lead the way.