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The Reach Up Team: (Front, from left) Marta Rubio-Codina, Social Protection and Health, Inter-American Development Bank; Jena Hamadani, Head of Child Development Unit, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh; Christine Powell, Senior Lecturer, TMRI, The UWI, Mona; Susan Walker, Professor of Nutrition and Director, TMRI, The UWI, Mona; Sally Grantham-McGregor, Emeritus Professor of Child Health and Nutrition, Institute of Child Health, University College London; Susan Chang-Lopez, Senior Lecturer, TMRI, The UWI, Mona. (Back, from left) Kristy Fernandez, Child Development Specialist, TMRI, The UWI, Mona; Amika Wright, Research Assistant, TMRI, The UWI, Mona; Helen Baker-Henningham, Senior Lecturer, TMRI, The UWI, Mona, and School of Psychology, Bangor University, North Wales, UK; and Joanne Smith, Project Coordinator, TMRI, The UWI, Mona.


UWI Mona’s TMRI ‘Reaches Up’ with early childhood parenting programme

IN SEEKING TO meet the global need for effective Early Childhood Parenting initiatives, The University of the West Indies, Mona has taken its creativity to the world via a research-driven parenting package: Reach Up: An Early Childhood Parenting Programme. The programme, implemented via the Child Development Research Group in the Tropical Medicine Research Institute (TMRI) aims to ensure that more children globally will be able to access an initiative that promotes early stimulation and offers numerous long-standing benefits.
At the core of Reach Up’s mandate is a strategic approach to help countries worldwide (particularly those with more vulnerable rural and urban populations) bridge the gap between those children who are entering primary level institutions with the necessary educational and social capabilities and those who are not.
Already being implemented in several countries such as Bangladesh, India, Brazil, Madagascar and Peru, there are plans to set it up in countries such as Guatemala and China.
Although the model has been in development for a number of years, the Reach Up: An Early Childhood Parenting Programme was formally launched on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 in Washington, DC with the support of Grand Challenges Canada, and hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank. Since the launch, the Reach Up team has been kept busy training personnel from Zimbabwe with a plan to implement it in that country next.
A global approach to parenting
In keeping with its global approach to parenting, Reach Up announced at its launch that several aspects of the programme would become available in digital formats globally. In this way, it is believed that the benefits derived under the programme will become more accessible to those who need it the most. The programme will therefore provide agencies with a comprehensive set of materials to support parents in providing a more stimulating environment for their children, improving quality interaction and facilitating learning.
The resources include:

  • The curriculum

  • The supervisor and visitor training manuals

  • Demonstration videos

  • The adaptation and planning manual

  • A toy manual.

A culturally diverse, scalable solution
True to its global perspective, Reach Up also offers a scalable approach which Professor Susan Walker, Director of TMRI, refers to as a culturally relevant solution.
“The Reach Up: An Early Childhood Parenting Programme provides the materials and training needed to implement effective parenting interventions,” Walker said.
“It is based on the proven Jamaica Home Visit Programme and is unique, given its extensive evidence base. The programme uses low-cost materials, can be modified for different cultures and uses the power of play. The cultural adaptability and scalability have contributed to successful implementation in several different countries,” she said.
And the benefits? Based on its multi-dimensional, hands-on approach, the Reach Up: An Early Childhood Parenting Programme boasts many benefits including:

  • Cultural Relevance: The package makes room for cultural modifications to ensure maximum benefits are received. Guidelines are therefore provided to ensure that home-based toys, games and other activities have cultural relevance.

  • Long-Term Investment: Reach Up advocates for longer-term follow-ups to ensure that the changes at varied stages of a child’s life are being assessed.

  • Home Visits: Critical to Reach Up’s success is its inclusion of home-based visits by trained visitors. This practical approach ensures that there is the opportunity for direct interaction. It also ensures that the parent/caregiver is actively involved in the early childhood intervention. Supervision of visits is used to provide support for visitors and ensure programme quality

  • The Power of Play: Play activities using low-cost toys are an integral part of Reach Up. The package therefore includes a toy manual that guides agencies on how to make toys using recyclable materials.

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