Episcopal Relief & Development gets grant from Hilton Foundation

Posted Dec 15, 2011

[Episcopal Relief & Development] Episcopal Relief & Development is pleased to announce that it is the recipient of a $350,000 grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for work in rural Zambia.  This grant will support the incorporation of early childhood development into the integrated community development program currently run by the organization’s partner, the Zambia Anglican Council (ZAC).

Episcopal Relief & Development will raise funds to match the full amount of the grant, enabling the project to reach an estimated 4,000 families in areas with a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS.

The prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in Zambia is among the highest in the world, leaving hundreds of thousands of children orphaned or vulnerable.  Parents who are HIV-positive may succumb to the disease, or be too sick to provide sufficient care for their children.  This responsibility often falls to a relative or a sibling, who may lack the resources or knowledge to support the child’s health, growth and development.

The program will work with 4,000 families affected by HIV/AIDS, addressing the interrelated needs of children under five and empowering their parents or caregivers to support their healthy development.  The program will incorporate learnings from the development of The Essential Package: A Framework for Action for Young Children and Their Caregivers Affected by HIV and AIDS, a unique initiative spearheaded by CARE, Save the Children, the Consultative Group on Early Childhood Care and Development and other stakeholders, with funding from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

“One of our primary goals is to facilitate and strengthen the capacity of community-based organizations to deliver early childhood development services for young children and their caregivers who are affected by HIV/AIDS,” stated Dr. Shaheen Kassim-Lakha, Director, International Programs at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.  “We are very pleased to partner with Episcopal Relief & Development and the Zambia Anglican Council because of their deep local knowledge and wide network of volunteers.”

Episcopal Relief & Development and ZAC will integrate activities into their rural program that support children’s cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development.  Caregivers will also participate in agriculture and livelihood development to improve their families’ nutrition and increase family income.

Grace Phiri Mazala, National Programs Director for ZAC, explains the importance of focusing on caregivers as well as children: “In the long run, because of the trainings, the caregivers will play an important role.  They are the points of early contact to a child, and they will serve as gateways to other early childhood services.  They will become the trusted sources of information for families, and will give critical guidance.”

The goal of the current phase of the project is to develop a model of family-centered care and caregiver capacity-building that could be scaled up and replicated in other rural areas in Africa with high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates.  Community development staff will work with teams of trained community volunteers to carry out activities and encourage the adoption of healthy behaviors, according to proven methods developed by Episcopal Relief & Development’s NetsforLife® malaria prevention partnership, which is active in Zambia and 16 other African countries.

Episcopal Relief & Development and ZAC’s program was of particular interest to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation because it will expand existing activities to meet the holistic needs of young children affected by HIV/AIDS.  By leveraging the Church’s long-term presence in rural communities, Episcopal Relief & Development is able to catalyze lasting change and truly sustainable development and contribute to a rural model for community-centered care.

“The first years of life are the most important, in terms of a child’s physical and mental development, so this new intervention has the potential to make a profound impact on the lives of thousands of children and their caregivers,” said Rob Radtke, President of Episcopal Relief & Development.  “Receiving the recognition and support of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is an incredible blessing, for which we are all deeply grateful.  It highlights the quality and necessity of the work being done in partnership with ZAC.”

The early childhood development component will include monthly play groups for children, accompanied by their guardians, for creative play, stimulation, and social interaction.  Caregivers will participate in workshops on parenting education and skills, child nutrition and health.  Home visits by child development workers will help caregivers put into practice what they’ve learned and provide assistance with solving problems.  Community health workers will monitor the children’s growth and development and follow up with caregivers on water, sanitation, and hygiene as well as basic disease prevention and treatment particularly related to HIV/AIDS and malaria.

“Our vision is for communities with healthy, thriving children, empowered caregivers, and communities equipped to support the vulnerable in their midst,” said Abagail Nelson, Senior Vice President for Programs at Episcopal Relief & Development.  “We are extremely pleased to receive this recognition from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, and to be a part of this vital and expanding initiative.”

Episcopal Relief & Development is the international relief and development agency of the Episcopal Church and an independent 501(c)(3) organization. The agency takes its mandate from Jesus’ words found in Matthew 25.  Its programs work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Episcopal Relief & Development works closely with the worldwide Church and ecumenical partners to help rebuild after disasters and to empower local communities to find lasting solutions that fight poverty, hunger and disease, including HIV/AIDS and malaria.