Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Window of Opportunity

TTL’s focus is on supporting children under the age of five. It’s a time period that captures children at their most productive and most vulnerable.

From the time of a woman’s pregnancy to the child’s second birthday, often described as the 1000 day window, adequate nutrition for mother and baby has a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow – both cognitively and physically- and their chance at a productive, healthy life.

Children are constantly learning during their first years of life – building connections between brain cells and developing the essential framework that can shape their potential over the rest of their lives. We are more actively engaged in learning during this period than we will be at any other. It’s a time of great possibility and one that will have a profound impact on a child’s future.

However, all this potential is a double edged sword. When a child’s ability to take advantage of this rich learning period is threatened, there can be serious and even irreversible consequences. 

Undernutrition weakens a child immune system making them more susceptible to common illnesses such as pneumonia and diarrhea. The child will not only be more likely to fall ill, but they will also be ill more frequently, stay ill for longer, and may even die from otherwise preventable diseases. 

As a result children are less active, less engaged and less able to take advantage of the learning opportunities around them. All the children TTL supports - and especially those in the safe-home - are perfect examples. Because of malnutrition and illness, their development is often a few steps behind those of their peers of the same age.

Luckily, there is one other thing that characterises this window of a child’s life: resiliency. If you can get a child the support they need early on to combat any previous deficits – they have an incredible ability to make up for lost time.

No child develops at the same rate. Some children are quick to walk, others can’t wait to start talking. A child whose development has been delayed due to poor nutrition and illness can quickly learn to crawl and feed themselves in a fraction of the time it took their peers to reach this stage – if they get the support they need to get there. It's a sign of how eager children are to learn at this period, and truly inspiring to watch.

At TTL, we see this time after time with every one of the children we support. It's what keep us motivated to help more vulnerable children meet their full potential.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

It’s the start of a new year, and for a lot of people that means a time of reflection and setting resolutions for the future. At TTL, we’re in the middle of the exact same process: counting year end numbers, tallying budgets, and setting our goals for this coming year. 

It’s been a big year for TTL, we’ve now reached well-over 1000 children, have continued to expand our reach by building our Village Health Worker Program, and completed our first long-term evaluation of our services.

The evaluation allowed TTL to follow up with some of our graduated children and caregivers to assess how the little ones are doing today and talk to caregivers about their experiences of being supported by TTL. Our team of data collectors met with over 145 graduated clients, travelling long distances by car and on foot over Mokhotlong’s mountainous terrain so that TTL could learn from its beneficiaries about how we can best help vulnerable children.

Data collectors make their way down the mountain to a village of a graduated TTL child

One mother who TTL worked with in 2008 had the following to say: 

"They counselled me as a mother about HIV by showing me it was not the end of the world. I was no longer worried about what to feed my child and if he would survive…I was scared when my child went to the safe-home because I didn't know if he would come back but TTL helped me with transport so I could visit the child in town and other people told me TTL would help me so I relaxed...They help people so much and have a love of children. They should keep up their good work"

Interviews and discussion groups with staff at rural clinics, local Councillors and Chiefs, and Village Health Workers provided added insight into TTL’s impact in the community. Consultations were also held with all TTL staff members to support their participation in determining how TTL can best support children and their caregivers in the highlands of Lesotho.

Assessing the health of a graduated TTL child who was supported from 2008-2010

As a grassroots organisation making sure that TTL is meeting the needs of its community is at the heart of everything we do. Consulting with our beneficiaries and other local stakeholders is indispensable to this commitment. 

This evaluation not only helped to identify what TTL does well and the long-term sustainability of our impact, but also how TTL can continue to grow in the future. 

We’re all excited to see what kind of progress TTL can make in this coming year, not only defined by numbers but also in terms of providing the best possible care and support to every vulnerable child and family we serve.

A graduated TTL child and his grandmother at an evaluation follow-up visit