When we began planning for the pilot program for Little Ripples, we also began brainstorming about how to scale up. From serving approximately 400 children in the first LR school, we knew we needed to be able to serve about 7,500 children ages 3-5 in two refugee camps—and from there exploring how to take the model to other camps in the area and even other countries.
Building the first “ocean” of a school for the pilot program involved many challenges, but scaling up using that model of construction—the new, big, shiny school—presents even bigger obstacles. We knew that cost would be a huge impediment, but now conditions in the camps make it close to impossible to continue with that model, even if we did have the funding in hand (which we don’t).
There are drastic cuts in services and food taking place in Darfuri camps in eastern Chad. There is a disturbingly quick move to promote “self reliance” for the refugees, with all support being cut. With little to no help in preparing the refugees, they have no way for to make up the difference. As everything is being cut, the atmosphere is not suitable for more big, shiny schools.
Taking the above into consideration and the need to place more emphasis on empowering the refugees, an idea came to me as we were on the bumpy road back from camp Goz Amer after a long day at the Little Ripples school.
What if, instead of building more big schools (the big “oceans” for our ripples), we create in-home LR centers (little “ponds” for our ripples) that are run by teams of two teachers. We adapt the homes to make them safe and appropriate for young children’s learning. We also construct a small, secure storage room for their play and learning materials. These “LR Ponds” then serve between 30 and 50 children from the community around them. We’d have to figure out the capacity of children possible for the spaces and the teachers, while maintaining our LR standards. The teachers would collaborate with mothers from that community to help with preparing meals and snacks for the students. The model would have a central location to be the office and training center. At Goz Amer it would be the current school. In other camps, we would build a simple, one room facility.
The training and curriculum would remain the same. We would not compromise on that at all. The educational program would remain play-based, and the core principles will be to promote peace, compassion, and empathy. The LR Pillars will continue to be Peace, Helping, and Sharing.
There would be some big challenges for this model. Quality control and supervision would be a major one. There are over 7,500 children between ages 3 and 5 in the two camps Little Ripples will initially serve. That means that many Ponds need to be created and supported.
We are exploring all angles of this to make sure it’s the right thing to do—looking at the social, cultural, educational, safety, and peace components related to this new model. We are looking at the challenges as opportunities to be creative and, with the refugee community, continue co-creating an even better program.
What do you think of the LR Ponds model? As the environment around the children becomes ever more stressful and difficult, how do we create spaces where children will thrive? I look forward to your thoughts.
Little Ripples is creating spaces where children can thrive, physically and emotionally. Support our mindfulness work.
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