Saving Babies Brains

So much for my pledge to blog every week! I have been so wonderfully busy working with the AMOS team writing grant reports and grant requests that when I get home the last thing I want to do is log back into my computer. So it is time to catch up.

Two very large grants were just completed. The first is with Grand Challenges Canada. This grant is managed through the Canadian government and represents a consortium of large funders. The emphasis is on “saving babies brains.” So, of course we are calling it our saving babies brains (SBB) grant. We wrote a two year grant request for about $150,000 to fund a trial program in Nejapa. AMOS wants to test the hypothesis that children’s developmental milestones can be impacted through the use of Education Cascade Groups (ECGs) and curriculum specifically designed for it. These ECGs will target caregivers (mothers, fathers, grandparents, and others), which we are calling First Teachers, and their children. It empowers community volunteers to work with neighborhood-level groups of 10 volunteers every two weeks to change caregivers’ early childhood development behaviors and conduct biweekly home visits to assure each child has a safe and stimulating environment. In meetings, volunteers promote caregiver early childhood development behaviors such as nurturing care and gender equality using flipcharts, stories, games, and songs, and help caregivers practice skills with their children.

What is especially exciting about this program is its emphasis on the caregiver-child relationship. AMOS hopes to reach 900 children and 1,472 caregivers. This project was conceived at the request of this community as a result of  an AMOS study done earlier this year. This research involving 106 children between birth to five years in Nejapa found that 56% of children under the age of 5 failed to meet at least 2 developmental milestones. The most common delays were fine motor and receptive language, both domains of child development that require appropriate stimulation for full development. It is really exciting to think that the community can be empowered to address this issue. 

We must invest in babies, children and our youth! They are our future. They will soon be the ones to continue the fight for social equity and for the environment. We must ensure they have all the tools possible, including education, health, and community leadership development.

Thought I would include transportation pictures with this post. I get around mostly using public transportation. Although, my new friend, Jessica, has a car and gives me lots of rides. She and her roommate, Natalie, both work at AMOS and are amazing young women. The cute red vehicle is a capon era. Within Nejapa, one either walks or takes a capanero. It is about $20 (cordobas) or 65 cents per person for a caponera. The roads within almost any community, once you are off the main road, are mostly rutted dirt with lots of potholes. There are also public buses (looks like a school but to us). These go to all the communities and all over Nicaragua. This is how most people get around. The cost depends on where you are going — about $3 (cordobas), less than 10 cents, around Managua and $29 – $45  ($1-$2 US) if you are going out of town to Leon or Granada. They fill the buses until people are literally bursting out of the windows and doors. Check out the oxen pulling the cart. These carts are pulled by horses, donkeys, or oxen. They can (and do) go everywhere, including the main roads and highways. Families use them for transportation and they are also used for commerce. There are also trucks and taxis. To take a taxi from where I live in Nejapa to downtown Managua is about $170-$300 ($5.50-$6 US). I have never had a problem using the public transportation and feel very safe with it. Although, I do not use it after dark. After dark I use taxis.

From where I live to get to AMOS, I usually get a ride with Jessica and Natalie. Coming home depends on everyone’s schedules. To get home I can take a caponera to the main highway. Then I usually have to get another caponera to my apartment. It takes about 30 minutes all together. To get to work, I can take the bus to the cemetery and then get a caponera into AMOS. The Nejapa cemeteria is a major landmark. If I am in Managua and want to take a taxi or minibus home, I tell the driver I live at Nejapa cemeteria Km 11.8 (11.8 kilometers past the Nejapa cemeteria). There is no address. The roads are not labeled. Everything is by description and location.


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