Recognizing the critical role that Early Childhood Development (ECD) plays in laying the foundation for long-term community and economic development, International Medical Corps introduced ECD education for mothers and other care givers in Jordan in 2009. Our local team supports Bayt Alkol Child and Family Development Center, which offers family-focused services and activities for vulnerable communities. Located in Zarqa, the center serves Jordanians and Iraqi refugees living in this urban, resource-poor area about six miles from Amman.
“The ECD training in Bayt Akol particularly targets families with low incomes and limited parental education, as well as single-headed households, as these are most at risk of not accessing the right knowledge about ECD for the future mental wellbeing of their children,” says Amal Al-Dajah, International Medical Corps’ Senior Program Officer for Mental Health and an ECD trainer.
The first years of a child’s life prove critical for his or her development, as the most significant brain growth occurs during this time. Negative experiences during early childhood such as stress, trauma, chronic neglect, and physical and emotional abuse can lead to lifelong problems in learning, behavior, and physical and mental health. ECD programs target children from birth to age eight to ensure optimal health and well-being throughout their lives.
Through Bayt Alkol, International Medical Corps offers a five-day ECD training designed to help parents, family members, and other care givers provide the best possible start for their children. The training helps participants understand the developmental needs of children, the significance of healthy parental communication, positive behavior modification techniques, and the importance of play during the early years of childhood.
Referring to a beneficiary of a recent training, Amal Al-Dajah says, “She came to me after the training and sadly said ‘I wish I could have learnt the importance of ECD before I had my first baby. I did not pay enough attention to his development, and only see now how much I have neglected my son. I know I cannot turn back time, so I will try to pay more attention to his needs now. I am having my second baby and I will not commit the same mistakes.’”
Currently, 27 women are participating in ECD training at Bayt Alkol (18 Iraqis and 9 Jordanians), ranging from 21 to 50 years in age. “We were positively surprised to see such a great interest in the ECD training. A great majority of participants are divorced or widowed women with more than three children, heading their households on their own,” says Amal Al-Dajah. “In spite of the difficulties in reaching the center and their daily household chores, they punctually show up to training and, upon completion, share their newly acquired knowledge of ECD with other women in their communities.”