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A Strong Foundation Ensuring a better future by focusing on the youngest

  • In Aceh, Plan focused on early childhood care to improve children’s lives from an early age.

  • Focusing on the youngest members in a community, Plan aimed to achieve a wider, longer-lasting impact.

  • Plan's work increased children's motivation to go to school.

  • Plan trained teachers to make their classrooms more interactive.

  • Plan built schools, childcare centres, and playgrounds.

  • To ensure infants had a healthy start in life, we began by helping pregnant mothers and newborns.

  • At least 2,500 children enrolled in early childhood care and development programmes.

When Plan started working in the tsunami-hit areas of Indonesia, the indicators were dire, but the anecdotes were even worse. The tsunami had left behind 6,000 to 10,000 orphans. Diarrhoea was afflicting nearly one in five infants, and more than 15 per cent of children were malnourished.

Plan found a group of 15 boys, aged 14 to 18, carving out a living together – earning 50,000 rupees (US $5) a day by scavenging for rocks. Meanwhile, 13 year-old Mahfud planted mangroves after he lost his father to help support his mother.

"We spend money if we go to school, but we save money if we work," said a child from the village of Meunasah Keude.

While helping to rebuild the tsunami-hit communities of Indonesia, Plan decided to focus on early childhood care and development. By improving the quality of life for children from an early age, Plan aimed to achieve a wider, longer-lasting impact.

A healthier childhood, a better life

We began by helping pregnant mothers and newborn infants. Plan constructed, equipped and staffed 25 pre- and post-natal maternal health centres and trained 47 midwives, ensuring infants had a healthy start in life and involving mothers in the growth and well being of their babies.

For the next stage in a child's life, we built 39 village health posts, including a playground at each one. Traditionally, these posts monitored the height and weight of children in the community, but Plan trained staff to provide fun activities and nutrition supplements for infants and pre-school children as well.

These health posts now offer health care and a jumpstart on education for children up to the age of 5. They also offer consultations for mothers. At least 2,500 children have been enrolled in early childhood care and development programmes.

"Children who joined the early childhood care and development programme study more actively and are mentally bolder, often asking teachers questions," said Yusran, whose child was enrolled in the programme.

Other adults in the communities said children who received early childhood care were more expressive and could read, write, sing, and tell stories about their friends.

Making school a place children enjoy

In addition to building schools and child care centres, we strove to train teachers to make their classrooms more interactive and to eliminate corporal punishment from their schools.

One of the new kindergartens is painted bright green inside and has white boards for children to write on, toys, colourful tables and chairs, and a merry-go-round outside. From an early age, children already seem happier about school and have hope for a better future.

"I love being here with my three friends, Indah, Ulfa and Andella," said two and a half year-old Ryan. "I don't want to go home earlier. I like playing and learning here."

After all our health, sanitation and education interventions, the indicators also pointed to a brighter future: diarrhoea among 6- to 23-month old children dropped from 19 per cent to 4 per cent, severe malnutrition was eliminated and moderate malnutrition decreased from 15.4 per cent to 2.7 per cent.

In a survey of communities, Plan found that the focus on children and education was seen as one of our strongest disaster recovery interventions. Asked how Plan best supported her tsunami-affected community, 12 year-old Nur Hakimah said, "Increasing the motivation for children to go to school."