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2 Full Days at Camp Goz Amer

These past two days have been so productive for Little Ripples! Gabe and I have been at the camps for the full day, getting there between 8-8:30am and leaving at 3pm (we leave at that time so that there is still daylight for the drive back on the bumpy road back to Koukou, where the UNHCR compound is).

After many meetings with JRS, UNHCR, the camp manager (the camp is currently managed by a Chadian NGO), and representatives of the central committee (a leadership system in the camps where every sector [each camp is divided physically into sectors, normally with the first sectors populated by refugees that arrived first and then sequentially from there] and other special groups including women, children, and vulnerable groups are represented by elected leaders), we found the location for Little Ripples!!! It was very important to have multiple voices included in the decision; because the pilot will only serve one sector of the camp, it was important that the location was picked in an unpolitical, unbiased manner. All these leaders will also help in explaining this to the rest of the camp and that eventually all sectors will have their own LIttle Ripples 🙂

Current preschools in Goz Amer comprise of a thatched roof over a circular brick enclosure where 60 plus students are sitting on mats on the floor. We observed the preschool in the sector where Little Ripples will be built. The preschool teachers and assistants were compassionate, patient and kind with the children but the environment would make effective instruction near impossible. The kids were literally crammed into the little space shoulder to shoulder. There were clearly toddlers younger than 3 included in the group. There were maybe only 5 children wearing the preschool uniform. Besides a small chalkboard propped up on one side of the structure, there were absolutely no materials or toys for the children. Many of the children were sick, malnourished, crying…We also happened to see a morning meal distribution (a biscuit and piece of candy) and that turned out to be a hot mess! Amplified crying and fighting, wrappers strewn on the floor, crumbs and sugary goo smeared across faces and clothing. The sad part is that however minimal this current preschool program is, there will probably be no more funding beyond December 2012. Because preschool is not a mandated program under UNHCR, it will be one of the first things cut when faced with budget restrictions. A situation like this makes me think of the monumental improvement Little Ripples will create in a child’s development in so many different ways.

We also got to do a really cool activity with these future Little Ripples…keep updated with the site to find out ways you can personally connect with one of these adorable little ripples of hope for the future!

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Jennifer became passionate about international development and humanitarian work when studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, and leading youth performing arts workshops in one of the surrounding townships. After graduating from UCLA with a Masters in Public Health in Community Health Sciences, she taught adolescent reproductive health to high school students in South and East Los Angeles. She has also worked as a Research Associate at the UCLA Center for Health Services and Society, where she was able to foster an understanding of the community engagement and community resilience approaches, and hopes to incorporate these strategies in her work with Little Ripples. jennifer@iactivism.org


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