With many challenges still ahead, hope is needed—now more than ever!

Early childhood development (ECD) is a major issue for the Kenyan government. For it is at this very early age when the building blocks of a child’s future begin to be constructed. When a young child’s brain is stimulated, they learn the skills they need to help them survive and thrive in what is often a very harsh environment. The ultimate aim for these children is to curb an intergenerational cycle of poverty and illiteracy. And the act of playing is vital in stimulating brain activity. This is why programmes such as Let’s Play for Change and Space for Kids to Kids are essential to these communities.

For every child, love – Samburu Maralal ECD centre. Photo by Lenaimalda Salena.

The work undertaken by the teams at both UNICEF Kenya and their partners in the field is exceptional.

The strategies put in place to support children’s health and their education have been decided by Kenya’s national government. However, the implementation of these strategies and the relevant projects are managed by regional government agencies with the co-operation of their partners.

A sentiment that emerged from this trip for me is that there is a deep and sincere commitment from local government officials, health professionals and local associations alike, to do their best for the children.

Many of them are, understandably, a little worried about the approaching end date of the Let’s Play for Change campaign for the ECDs in their local areas. Their hope is that the current momentum created by the programme sustains their motivation for many more years to come.

There is a real awareness among those delivering the programme that the role of play is very important during the early stages of a child’s development. At the same time, they’re also trying to provide solutions to children’s many other basic needs—such as making sure they have official identity documents, access to clean drinking water, quality health care, sustainable housing and a diet that is both balanced and nutritious.

For both UNICEF and the IKEA Foundation, the priority and focus over the coming years will be on sustainability. This means helping families access renewable energy, so they can afford a better everyday life, while protecting the planet.

This trip will forever be engraved in my memory and in my heart. It was truly a rewarding life-experience. The smiles of all of the children will remain in my heart and I intend to return to this beautiful country where benevolence is a way of life; a philosophy of life.

I would like to say “Asante Sana” to IKEA, the IKEA Foundation and to the UNICEF teams of France, Switzerland and especially UNICEF Kenya. And, most of all, to all the children who offered me so much love!

School children, Maralal ECD centre, Samburu. Photo by Daniel Oloo.
    Adiara Ly