Faith Inspired Reflection:
The ECD Program is a reflection of Episcopal Relief & Development’s community-led and faith-based approach. ECD volunteers from different denominations are at the heart of the program, collecting data and monitoring activities on a monthly basis through personal household visits. Volunteers are driven by their faith and commitment to service. Their work is aligned with their values and they recognize the impact they make in their communities. The bishop’s monthly motivational speech and visit gives spiritual strength and motivation to volunteers.
Episcopal Relief & Development and their partner the Zambia Anglican Council Outreach Program (ZACOP) launched the Early Childhood Development (ECD) Program as a pilot program in two provinces in rural Zambia in 2012. The program has since scaled to five provinces, serving the development needs of nearly 6,228 families with 9,937 children under six years of age.
The ECD Program is a volunteer-implemented program focusing on holistic wellbeing. The ECD Program works with caregivers and vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDS from 0-6 to help children survive and thrive. Trained volunteers facilitate caregiver support & learning groups, make monthly home visits, and provide referrals to needed services. To ensure families have the resources they need to raise children who will thrive, the program addresses health, nutrition and food security, and livelihoods strengthening.
Adapted from Existing Framework
The ECD program uses program tools from the Essential Package for Holistically Addressing the Needs of Young Children and their Caregivers Affected by HIV/AIDS, which was developed by the Inter-Agency Task Force on ECD and AIDS. Episcopal Relief & Development adapted the Essential Package for a rural setting and integrated holistic programming on maternal and child health, family livelihoods and nutrition and food security.
The ECD Program is implemented by volunteers, known as ECD Promoters, who have been recruited and trained by ZACOP specifically for the ECD Program. To cost-effectively reach remote, rural communities, the ECD Program leverages physical facilities associated with the Zambia Anglican Council and other faith institutions – such as churches and schools – that serve as Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centers.
Episcopal Relief & Development and ZACOP have developed a thriving network of ECD centers. In three years, Episcopal Relief & Development and ZACOP have trained 1,457 ECD volunteers, including 233 lead volunteers, 1166 ECD promoters, 424 preschool volunteers and 153 psycho-social counselors spread across eight provinces and/or 5 dioceses (church-based geographical designations).
Data Collection System
Benefits of Data Collection System
The data collection system that Episcopal Relief & Development and ZACOP created for the ECD Program added many benefits to the program:
- ECD Volunteers, who work with many children and caregivers, can keep track of the behavior and development of each child and caregiver over time.
- Caregivers can give feedback about the ECD Promoters. ECD Promoters, Lead ECD Volunteers, and program managers are able to learn from the feedback given from caregivers.
- ECD Promoters receive guidance from lead ECD Volunteers and other ECD Promoters on how to best support their children and caregivers
- ZACOP, which has trained over 1,000 ECD volunteers, can ensure that volunteers are well-trained and correctly implementing the program
- Program Managers, who are responsible for the overall success and finances of the program across the eight districts, can use data from the program to make informed decisions about work plan and budget
- Episcopal Relief & Development can use information about the program to understand how to best spread the program to other areas
- Episcopal Relief & Development can use the information to confidently share an accurate story of the program with a broader audience, including donors and potential partners
The following factors influenced how the ECD data collection system was designed:
- Adaptation of existing resources
Episcopal Relief & Development adapted the ECD program using the Essential Package—a pre-existing, evidence-based framework for early childhood development programs developed by many stakeholders. Instead of building a completely new system, Episcopal Relief & Development was able to save time and resources by adapting data collection resources that were already developed in the Essential Package—including the volunteer checklist, questionnaire, and Monitoring & Evaluation framework with indicators.The Essential Package resources were a good foundation, but did not include all of the information necessary for their program. Episcopal Relief & Development adapted the Package by adding additional tools such as parental skills exercises, parental stress assessments, visual aids per age group, HIV/AIDS referrals and demographic data collection. All resources were translated into the local language.
- Simple data collection tools
The majority of data is collected by ECD Promoters during visits to children’s homes. The data collection tools needed to be simple enough to not be burdensome for the ECD Promoter who was conducting the home visit, while at the same time retrieving enough information to be useful for others using the data, including Lead ECD Volunteers, Program Managers, and Episcopal Relief & Development.To keep the data collection simple, ECD Promoters collect data through 1:1 interviews with the caregivers of children. The interview questions are standardized through a questionnaire and checklist.
- Data collected is useful to all persons involved in the program
Episcopal Relief & Development and ZACOP wanted to develop a data collection system that was useful to all individuals who were involved in the program, particularly the individual ECD Promoters who were collecting the data.In this data collection system, each ECD Promoter is able to use the information they collect to keep track of the 7-8 children and caregivers they visit per month. During each home visit, the ECD Promoter records information about the visit and the well-being of the child. After the visit, the ECD Promoter submits this information to a Lead ECD Volunteer. The Lead ECD Volunteer aggregates the information submitted in the questionnaires and checklists from 7-8 ECD Promoters in their local area.Each month, 7-8 ECD Promoters meet together for a reflection meeting with Lead ECD Volunteers. The Lead ECD Volunteers review the aggregated data submitted in the past month from the 7-8 ECD Promoters’ home visits. If there is a child or caregiver that needs more support, the group works together to come up with recommendations.
- Standardized data
The ECD program was implemented across several regions. In order for the data collected from household visits in one region to be compared to household visits in another region, the data collected at all households needed to be standardized.In order for the data to be standardized, ECD Promoters in all regions used the same questionnaires and checklists during household visits to collect data. After the data is submitted and reviewed at the monthly reflection meeting, the Lead ECD Volunteers submits all the data to the diocese manager, who aggregates all data in the diocese into one Excel Spreadsheet. The Excel Spreadsheet is sent to ZACOP to be inputted into the National Database.
Detailed Process: Activity, Data Collection, and Data Use
1. Children in the community are identified for home visits from an ECD Promoter. Each ECD Promoter is assigned eight children to visit every month. Every month, an ECD Promoter visits each child’s home and discusses the child’s wellness with the child’s caregiver.
2. The ECD Promoter conducts an interview with the child’s caregiver using a questionnaire and checklist. The ECD Promoter asks about the child’s developmental status, the caregiver’s health, and the caregiving environment and writes down the responses of the caregiver on the questionnaire based on the M&E Framework and Checklist.
3. If necessary, the ECD promoter provides on-the-spot training and education using visual aids to demonstrate behavioral exercises to stimulate children’s developmental growth. The ECD promoter notes any training that was completed.
4. The ECD promoter returns to the child’s home after one month for another discussion about the child’s wellbeing with the child’s caregiver. The ECD notes if there has been any behavior change in the household in response to previous trainings.
5. After each monthly visit, the ECD promoter sends the handwritten questionnaire and checklist to a “Lead ECD Volunteer”. The Lead ECD Volunteer reviews and aggregates the data sent in the past month by 7-8 local ECD Promoters.
Every month, 7-8 ECD Promoters meet with a Lead ECD Volunteer at their local ECD Center for a “Reflection Meeting”. At each Reflection meeting, the Lead ECD Volunteer and the ECD Promoters analyze and discuss their home visits in the past month, guided by the Reflection Meeting Reporting Tool. When an issue arises with any one caregiver, the case is discussed as a group and recommendations are made on how to best support the caregiver and the child. Recommendations could include referrals to psycho-social counselors or health specialists.
6. The information provided at the Reflection Meeting is entered into an Excel spreadsheet and sent to their diocese program manager, who aggregates data for all their projects into another Excel spreadsheet. The Excel Spreadsheet is sent to the National ZAC office and entered into the national database.
7. Program managers from the five dioceses meet quarterly and analyze the aggregated data at the provincial level to review work progress against planned outputs. The dioceses will also hold community focus group consultations with caregivers, ECD promoters and local stakeholders working in health, social services and education to gain additional information and solicit for recommendations based on their observations and data. Discussions are an open forum that is guided by participatory learning and action (PLA) tools.
Program managers from the five dioceses meet annually to take stock of the activities, present and analyze data and discuss lessons learned. Using findings from the community focus group consultations and data gathered on caregivers and children, program managers modify the work plan and budget for the following year or program phase.
Program managers conduct community member focus groups. They ask caregivers who have been visited by ECD Promoters to provide feedback about the visits, using the Home Visit Feedback Tool.