Early Childhood Development

Five Years of Amazing Results

Discover how the integrated Early Childhood Development (ECD) program in Zambia has reached nearly 30,000 children, working through local volunteers to empower and encourage caregivers and has been expanded into Kenya.

Download the full report

Download the report summary

Download the evaluation summary

Read the May 24, 2017 press release

Download the 2017 ECD Poster Presentation


Program Background

Episcopal Relief & Development and our partner, the Zambia Anglican Council Outreach Programmes (ZACOP), launched an integrated Early Childhood Development (ECD) program in 2012 for families affected by HIV/AIDS. In partnership with Anglican Church of Kenya Development Services (ADS-Nyanza), the program was launched in Kenya in 2014.

Through 2017, the ECD program has impacted nearly 30,000 families. Episcopal Relief & Development was awarded a $1.4 million grant in 2017 from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to expand the program in both countries.

In Zambia, this four-year grant will impact an additional 7,600 families including 14,880 children under the age of three, many of whom are impacted by HIV/AIDS. The program is based in churches and schools that serve as Early Childhood Development Centers. It leverages the assets of Episcopal and Anglican churches nationally and locally, with a dynamic network of local leaders and volunteers focusing on young children’s cognitive, psychosocial and physical development. The program also empowers parents and primary caregivers to strengthen nurturing care and early stimulation with their young children. Using a community-led, holistic approach, it addresses the interrelated needs of families: parenting, health, nutrition, food security and livelihoods.

Between birth and age three  is a critical, high-impact period for children’s healthy growth and development. Investing in children and their primary caregivers during this time can result in lifelong benefits. In Zambia, an external evaluation was conducted in 2016 documenting the results and assessing key factors in the program’s success in Zambia.

Episcopal Relief & Development, in partnership with ADS-Nyanza and with support from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, has been implementing an ECD project in Kenya, focusing on children ages three to six years old  in collaboration with local schools since 2014. The grant from the Hilton Foundation will contribute to the new Kisumu County program which includes 400 parents or relatives and approximately 480 children under three.

The ECD program addresses the needs of young children while equipping their caregivers and communities to support their healthy development. It uses program tools from the resource manual, Essential Package: Holistically Addressing the Needs of Young Vulnerable Children and Their Caregivers Affected by HIV and AIDS. Our vision is organized communities, strengthened families, empowered caregivers and children who are thriving.


ECD Figure and Quotes

The success of the program depends on four key elements:

  • Volunteers: the development of an effective corps of volunteers
  • Parenting Practices: improved child development through parenting practices to promote bonding and stimulate early learning
  • Capacity: parents’ increased capacities to meet children’s needs
  • Community Ownership: community ownership of Early Childhood Development and social change 

Trained volunteers facilitate caregiver support and 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, as well as livelihoods strengthening. 

Participating communities have enthusiastically engaged with the program, with dedicated volunteers carrying out the activities and collaborating organizations providing additional services.  

Here are some of the results:

  • Caregivers increased time with their children, spending 50% more time than parents in the control group
  • Caregiver-child interactions to build thinking, language and motor skills jumped from under 50% to 80%
  • Mosquito net use expanded from 56% to 86% and immunization rates increased from 58% to 96% 
  • The percentage of children eating protein at least once a day grew by 77%
  • In Savings & Loan Groups, 60% of funds were invested in small businesses and 25% in children's health and education

In the video below we follow Catherine, a volunteer / Lead Promoter in Zambia, as she conducts home visits and talks about her role in the Early Childhood Development program.