[Episcopal Relief & Development press release] Episcopal Relief & Development is proud to announce that it has received a $1 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to expand its Early Childhood Development (ECD) program in Zambia.
The organization had previously been awarded a $350,000 grant from the foundation to launch the program in three geographic provinces, in order to develop an integrated ECD program strategy for families affected by HIV/AIDS in rural areas. The current grant will enable Episcopal Relief & Development and its local partner, the Zambia Anglican Council (ZAC), to broaden the program’s reach and serve an estimated 12,500 children under six.
“It is a tremendous vote of confidence to receive this grant from the Hilton Foundation,” said Rob Radtke, president of Episcopal Relief & Development. “Following on a successful two-year project period, we will be able to strengthen the program over the next three years and work through the Zambian Church to introduce our proven approach in new communities. I am grateful to all of my colleagues who worked so hard to secure this grant, particularly Dawn Murdock, our resource mobilization manager, and Richard Hoff, our major gifts officer for the Midwest and Western regions.”
Episcopal Relief & Development is one of the grantees in the Hilton Foundation’s Children Affected by HIV and AIDS Initiative. The program is aimed at holistically addressing the needs of families affected by HIV/AIDS, particularly vulnerable young children and their caregivers. Episcopal Relief & Development’s goal is to build community and caregiver capacity to create a safe, stable environment in which children can thrive and reach their full developmental potential.
In Zambia, ZAC’s integrated rural program is based in churches and schools serving as Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centers. The ECD program leverages the assets of the Zambian Anglican Church nationally and locally, focusing on young children’s cognitive, psychosocial and physical development.
Trained ECD volunteers facilitate support and learning groups for caregivers and playgroups for children, make monthly home visits and provide referrals to needed services.
Program activities support families in three additional areas:
- Health: water, sanitation and hygiene education, growth monitoring and malaria prevention and control through Episcopal Relief & Development’s award-winning NetsforLife® program partnership;
- Nutrition and Food Supply: feeding practices for infants and young children, vegetable gardening and sustainable agriculture;
- Livelihood Strengthening: business training, formation of savings and loan groups.
“The ECD program addresses a serious need in the community, namely for young children impacted by HIV/AIDS to receive care that supports their healthy development,” said Grace Mazala Phiri, ZAC’s national program director. “But rather than having care take place in orphanages it is much better and more sustainable for us to work on strengthening families and enabling caregivers to provide this support. Furthermore, you cannot address only one area of need – if a child is hungry it may be because their caregiver is too sick to work or does not have skills to earn sufficient income, so you have to work on everything at once. It is not quick or easy, but it is the best way to help our communities.”
Over the next three years, with support from the most recent Hilton Foundation grant, the ECD program will build on its success to expand to other rural areas of Zambia. This funding will also help strengthen program quality through measures such as adding a preschool curriculum for children between the ages of three and five. Preliminary results have shown that the ECD program can be a catalyst for other community organizing efforts in marginalized areas, creating momentum for lasting change that fights poverty, hunger and disease. The program may also serve as a model for faith-based organizations working with families in rural, high HIV prevalence areas in other African countries.
“The family-centered approach of this program has the potential for significant, long-term impact, particularly for children affected by HIV/AIDS,” said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s senior vice president for programs. “Strong families are essential for nurturing a child’s potential, and our partnership with the Hilton Foundation has made it uniquely possible for us to build up those faith-based networks that sustain families during challenging times.”