The big WHY behind the Sikunye model

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The big WHY behind the Sikunye model

The tragic reality in South Africa is that up to half of our country’s children are not consistently receiving enough of what they need for optimal development. There are a range of risk factors at play, including: poverty, malnutrition and stunting, infectious diseases, environmental toxins, stress, violence, psychosocial risks, disrupted caregiving and disabilities. These are predictors – but not guarantees – of poor early childhood development.

To see a brighter future for our children and our nation, we need to invest in the First Thousand Days. Working to lay the foundations for optimal health and neurodevelopment at this stage will generate powerful returns for the whole of society, and is less costly, at both an individual and societal level, than trying to improve things later on.

What do you want for children?

Think about a young child in your community: we know that you want a future for that child that is bright, and marked by flourishing. You want to see children on a pathway of thriving. Each and every child has so much potential and whether that is realized depends heavily on the experiences during the first thousand days of life.

For children in our country to get the best start to life, they need the right kind of care in this crucial time of their lives.

Pay attention to the caregiver

We know what all children need in this stage in order to thrive: nurturing care. Over 1000 studies from over 100 countries reveal that all children need: adequate nutrition, good health, stimulation or opportunities for early learning, and a sense of safety and security and this is all provided in the context of responsive caregiving.

You will recognize that children cannot provide this for themselves. It is the adult caregiver in the child’s life that needs to be consistently providing enough of this kind of care. We see these adults in baby’s lives play a vitally important role in caring for and providing all these needs

For a baby to be put on a pathway of thriving, we must be paying special attention to the adult caregiver – the mom, the dad, the granny, the aunt, and uncles in the baby’s life – the family around baby.

Support the caregivers

With so much of a baby’s future flourishing depending on the adult caregiver, we have the opportunity to strengthen and support caregivers in this crucial role. Parenting is hard and all parents need some support – and some parents need all the support they can get.

At Sikunye we see three vital ways in which parents are supported:

  • Caring relationships
  • Information and skills
  • Access to professional services

Crucially, it is the caring relationship that enables the sharing of information / skills and referrals to service.  This relationship is all about a trusted person coming around mom and dad – listening, encouraging, and affirming. We know that people listen to information or skills and access referrals to professional services when they trust the person sharing the information with them.

Churches: well positioned and equipped

And this is where the church comes in. The church can use its existing strengths to care for families in unique ways. Churches exist in all parts of the country and have the inherent capacity to build community, journey with people and ensure that parents are not isolated, but able to seek support. Within every local church are individuals with a wide range of strengths, skills, connections, and opportunities, all of which can be leveraged to see families supported and strengthened.

Local churches can be that modern-day village around expecting moms and dads, around new mothers and fathers. Churches can show them the love and kindness they need, as well as offer practical support. Churches can create safe spaces for young moms, dads and babies: the environment that allows parents to flourish in order for their children to get a strong start to life!

What Sikunye does

Sikunye’s role in this is to raise awareness with churches to help them see the unique role that they play. Churches that commit themselves to caring for families with children in the First Thousand Days are part of the Sikunye network and can access a range of training workshops and informational resources.

Sikunye does not work with families. Instead, we equip and support churches to do that. Churches are well positioned and can reach families in a contextually relevant way. In some ways, Sikunye is like a coach on the side of the field, cheering churches on, offering some ideas, and pointing them to different opportunities.

Sikunye theory of change

Imagine for a moment that churches across the country use what they have to care for and strengthen families in this important stage of life. Imagine the future of our country. When you pay attention to the beginning of the story you can change the whole story. Will you be part of that?

Will you be in this journey of giving all children a strong start to life?

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