Namaste! Most things still remain to be done!

When I first read about Early Childhood Development (ECD), I just thought it was about pre-school education. However, UNICEF transforms ECD to a comprehensive and holistic programme that, with the IKEA Foundation’s support, can further penetrate many rural areas in India.

The ECD programme takes care of both mothers and children from minus 1-year-old (as a foetus) to kids. It covers education, nutrition and health. Such a caring programme!

Our group of seven from different locations in IKEA Hong Kong, with the representative from UNICEF HK, flew from Hong Kong to Delhi to Udaipur. By Felix Chan.

When we arrived Udaipur, in the south part of Rajasthan in India on 15 November, the amazing journey started. J

Thanks to UNICEF HK and the India office for helping us to liaise with the India Embassy HK for our visa applications. Eventually we got our visas one day before our flight on 14 November.

Playing with gravel helps children’s cognitive development. Learning can be fun and simple! By Jack Leung.

During the two-and-a-half-day trip, the UNICEF team took us through the concept of ECD programmes, particularly in Rajasthan state. We visited an Anganwadi Centre and a primary school, played with children, talked to teachers and met with parents in Udaipur.

In the Anganwadi Centre (AWC, were started by the Indian government in 1975 as part of the Integrated Child Development Services program to combat child hunger and malnutrition.  Anganwadi means “courtyard shelter” in Indian language. A typical AWC provides basic health care in Indian villages), around 40 children are divided into three groups by different ages between three and six. Two to three teachers to take care of them. They are singing, dancing, praying and interacting with teachers on storytelling, colour painting and playing. The centre also has a high concern for the nutrition of the kids and prepares snacks and hot cooked meals for them.

We visited a Mothers’ Group in one of the AWCs in Udaipur. By Felix Chan.

Finally, we attended the workshop on parenting that UNICEF runs in partnership with some local communities. They are mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers or teachers. Through the sharing, coaching and guidance from the facilitator, the learning environment at home will be gradually built. There, we found passion, energy, determination, caring, thoughtfulness and happy faces.

To build strong bonds within the community in this rural area, the AWC staff also regularly visit homes in the village, talk to the families and see their needs on taking care of young children. They proactively identify any pregnant woman during a home visit and provide support to mothers during pregnancy, childbirth and in the first months of the child’s life on issues such as nutrition advice, growth chart monitoring, feeding the child, healthcare consultations etc.

Playing with the kids in Sindhu school. By Jack Leung.

We also visited Sindhu school and engaged with the transition of children from AWC to school with the fun game. They are so energetic and we all have a happy moment and can’t stop playing!

The IKEA Foundation and UNICEF are creating a better everyday life for children and families in India through the Early Childhood Development programme

UNICEF is striving for the best and keeps reviewing, renewing and improving its ECD programme, so as to make it sustainable and benefit more and more families and children in India.

As Ingvar Kamprad, Founder of IKEA, says: “Most things still remain to be done.”

    Maria Kwok