The Great Little Storyteller

Su Yadanar Kyaw

Senior Coordinator, Sponsorship Operations

Save the Children in Myanmar

January 14, 2019

 “… and the three little pigs finally chased the tiger away. The end!” Bhone, a 4-year-old boy, wraps up reading the story he learned from school with his friends and cousins, and is ready to play another game on the playdate.

Bhone is a preschooler living in Hpa An, in Kayin State in Myanmar, with his grandparents, aunty and two cousins. Bhone’s mother has been living in Bangkok as a migrant worker for over 10 years now. Just like other parents from this area who move to Thailand for work, she sends her earnings back to support her family. Hpa An is close to the Thailand border and jobs there tend to pay better than those in Hpa An, where the majority of opportunities are in low-paying farming or agriculture work. For this reason, many parents do the same to support their families, sending money to children and relatives in Myanmar. As a result of this migration, many families left in Hpa An are made up of young grandparents, or young uncles or aunts, who raise the children.

Before sponsors started supporting this community, little kids like Bhone played in the mud and dirt all day long. Most children did not have any games, toys or books of their own, in particular those that help with their learning skills. Play items were what was available to them – usually leaves or discarded plastics. Grandparents found it difficult to take care of children and used mobile phone games to keep them busy and distracted.

Bhone and his aunty, Daw Zar, who benefit from sponsorship programs together.

To help caretakers and give young children access to an engaging learning environment, in 2014 Save the Children started working with community members in Hpa An to establish early childhood learning centers. In addition to safe and reliable child care, these preschool programs provide children ages 3 – 5 years old with skills that prepare them for primary school, for example in early reading and math, which better sets them up for academic success as they get older.

Bhone is the first of the children in his family to receive any kind of early childhood education, since these kinds of opportunities did not exist before.

According to Bhone’s aunty Daw Zar, Bhone was a difficult boy before attending the preschool. He was stubborn, sometimes behaving violently with his aunt when she did not pay heed to his requests. He did not play much with his cousins either, but mostly kept to himself.

As a part of opening the early childhood learning center in their community, Save the Children also messaged out information on child care techniques, and offered to train parents, grandparents and other caretakers like Bhone’s aunty Daw Zar on how to take care of their children in ways that nurtured their development, for example how to select nutritional food options.

One key activity of these parenting education sessions was the promotion of a storytelling culture in children’s homes. Sponsorship presented the art of storytelling as a simple and beautiful way caretakers, and children, could share a memory, talk about their day, or read together from a book.

Through Save the Children, caretakers learned how storytelling is one of the first language experiences for a child and thus has several advantages in stimulating their growth, such as exposing them to new vocabulary, improving their listening and comprehension skills and promoting creativity. It also creates and preserves culture and enhances family bonds, which in turn improves children’s self-esteem.

Bhone storytelling during a playdate with his friends and cousins.

Like all children at the early childhood learning center, story time is one of Bhone’s favorites at school. He has now become a good storyteller himself, remembering almost all of the stories he learns from his teacher and sometimes creating his own.

“[Now] Bhone asks me to tell stories every night. But, I do not know many stories so he is the one who tells me stories every night. I love his creation and imagination.” Daw Zar proudly says, “The great little storyteller returns home every night.” 

“My favorite story is [about] a big bad tiger and three little pigs. I want to be smart like the three little pigs and make all the bad guys run away. Maybe I can be a police officer when I grow up” Bhone says excitedly.

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A mother in Kenya holds her newborn baby. Photo credit: Allan Gichigi/ Save the Children

5 priorities for involving parents and families in the care of small and sick newborns

Written by Mary Kinney, Senior Specialist, Global Evidence and Advocacy, Saving Newborn Lives at Save the Children 

Globally, nearly 30 million babies are born too soon, too small or become sick every year and need specialized care to survive. This staggering number was published in the report, Survive and Thrive: Transforming care for every small and sick newborn, by UNICEF, the World Health Organization, Save the Children and other partners at the end of 2018. Most of these babies can survive and live without major complications with quality and nurturing care.

Evidence indicates that involving parents and families or other caregivers in the care of the small and sick newborns benefits both the infants and parents including higher breastfeeding rates, earlier discharge from the hospital, increased weight gain, improved neurodevelopment, reduced parental stress and anxiety, and improved health-related knowledge and beliefs among parents and communities.

Here are five priorities from the report for involving parents and families in the care of small and sick newborns during hospitalization:

Promote Zero Separation

Evidence shows that the well-being and survival of both mother and newborn are inextricably linked and require a coordinated, integrated approach. This not only optimizes their health but also promotes greater efficiency, lowers costs and reduces the duplication of resources. For example, mother’s presence is crucial to establish breastfeeding and to promote Kangaroo Mother Care. Promoting zero separation reduces the risk for short- and long-term health and social problems, including parental depression and anxiety.

Intentionally Engage Men

While women have a unique role as mothers, evidence also shows that men also have a key role in the care of newborns, as partners/husbands, fathers, caregivers and community members. Men often determine health care seeking as well as provide care to the newborn and mother. Health services should accommodate men to accompany their partners, including service hours, physical space and privacy for care visits.

Involve Parents in the Care During Hospitalization

Parents or other caregivers make unique contributions by being able to observe, monitor and provide care to their small and sick newborns (when appropriate, under supervision and in partnership with the health-care team). A recent randomized control trial found that parental involvement during the inpatient neonatal intensive care benefits newborn health outcomes, including infant weight gain and increased frequency of exclusive breastmilk feeding at discharge, as well as a boon to parental mental health. Interventions, such as Kangaroo Mother Care, empowers families to care for their small newborns and shortens their length of stay in the hospital.

Practice Family-Centered Care

Family-centered care for small and sick newborns has a growing evidence base with demonstrated benefits for infants (such as weight gain and neurodevelopmental progress) as well as parents (such as decreased parental stress and anxiety and increased caregiving efficacy). This approach implements four basic principles: dignity and respect; information sharing; participation; and collaboration, and is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Hospitals and communities should provide space at the facility or nearby for parents or family members, as needed.

Empower Parents

Parents are powerful agents of change for small and sick newborn care supporting other parents and influencing policy and programs. Support forums for parents, including parent-led, peer-to-peer and health professional-led groups, improve the home environment, parental mental health and parental confidence in caring for their child. Parent advocacy and support organizations raise awareness and share their experiences to help others in the same situation through events like World Prematurity Day.

 

Thank to the generous support of our donors, Save the Children has a long-standing experience promoting family engagement in newborn care, such as with Kangaroo Mother Care, demand creation for community-based newborn care, and quality improvement activities. In order to transform care for small and sick newborns, intentional efforts must be made to involve parents, and we remain committed to this effort as part of our broader approach to improve maternal and newborn health. That means that together, we have the chance to make a lifetime of change for millions of newborn babies.

To learn more about the work Save the Children has done to save newborn lives, visit our website.

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A New School in Zomba

Margret, Sponsored Child

Edited by Memory Mwathengere, Sponsorship Communications Coordinator

Save the Children in Malawi

January 8, 2019

Although receiving a primary school education remains a basic public service in many countries across the world, for most children in Malawi, the chance to attend a good school is something very special, and millions of children in Malawi will never get the chance to experience this at all.

My name is Margret. I live in Zomba, a rural area in Malawi, together with my parents and three siblings. I am 18 years old and in my first year of secondary school.

I think of myself as one of the luckiest children in Malawi because I am in the sponsorship program. I joined sponsorship in 2008 when I was 8 years old.

Before joining sponsorship, I didn’t have any exercise books or pens for school. Our school was always way too small for the number of students trying to go there. Sometimes, we could have 200 of us crammed into one room. When there wasn’t enough space, I remember we needed to have classes outside, and we used to be disturbed by the noisy people and cars on the road nearby. When we were inside, the classrooms were bare and dull, without any print rich materials on the walls or tools for the teachers to use like books and chalkboards.

Margret on her bike ready to ride home from school.

Then one day, sponsorship came and built a new school block.

Now, there are enough classrooms for all of us! We still may have up to 60 students in a class, but this is much better than the hundreds trying to all learn together before.

Classrooms are now stocked with textbooks and exercise books, and other learning materials like pens, pencils and chalk for the teachers. We also have the opportunity to participate in all kinds of afterschool activities. For example, we can learn about the arts or leadership skills through peer-to-peer sessions, so that we can learn with our friends. We never had these kinds of groups available to us before, and wouldn’t continue with our studies after school. Our teachers also know better how to make learning fun and interactive for the students, including for children with a diverse range of learning needs.

This inspired me to go to school every day with hope.

Margret sharing some laughter with a friend.

The new school blocks also have toilets that make both boys and girls comfortable, and clean water spouts. This is especially important for the girls, because without bathrooms stocked with the materials we need we would feel embarrassed or even have to miss class during our time of the month.

One of my favorite things in sponsorship is receiving cards from my sponsor. It makes me feel really special because it shows me my sponsor remembers me.

Normally, even teenagers my age are not able to read and write as well as I am able to now, because of the changes sponsorship has made in my school. Because I had such a strong start in school, I feel much more confident to face the future and become a teacher one day.

Viva sponsorship!

Viva Save the Children!

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