In only a few weeks, A Better World 4 Kids had 557 children signed up for the grandparents’ story-telling sessions and 700 actually attending. The numbers had grown rapidly as word spread about the program, and siblings and neighbors’ children began following the registered children when they went to listen to the stories. Even children who had been assigned to babysit while their parents worked in the family garden plot came, carrying the babies on their backs and leading toddlers by the hand.
The staff were kept busy trying to keep track of those who came so that they could register them officially into the program.
When the Nakivale Settlement schools closed for the spring holiday, suddenly the number of children showing up for story-telling doubled. Daniel estimated that from 1400 to 1500 children came during the ten day holiday, crowding into the community shelters for the stories and group activities.
Fortunately, the program staff had anticipated that this might happen, and the grandparents banded together to save the day. They came out in numbers for every session, sitting with the children and reining in the more rambunctious ones and helping them participate in non-disruptive ways. “We could not have done it without the grandparents,” Daniel said with a huge grin.
It was a great success. The two different groups of children connected with each other, discussing the stories, playing foot ball, and making friends. Some of the Better World 4 Kids children began to feel more comfortable with the idea of going to school in the fall now that they knew some children there.
It takes real courage for a child to go to school in Nakivale Settlement. The closest school may require a walk of as much 7 kilometers. Unusually heavy rains this year have caused major flooding, making the roads impassable. An afternoon rainstorm may require an early dismissal from class and a dash for home, or else a long wait for the flood waters to recede and a long walk home in the dark of night. Having friends to walk with makes this feel safer, so it is clear that this mingling of school children and program children could smooth the transition of Better World 4 Kids’ children into the school system.
A local donation of 24 school text books by a local play center will also help that transition. The books are being given to children who have siblings already in the school system who can help their younger brothers and sisters master some basic skills that they will need when they go to school.
In addition, as part of a government sponsored Back-To-School campaign, a Better World 4 Kids staff member is working with parents and caregivers to encourage them to send their children to school and do whatever they can to support their education.