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2nd Introductuary Session : Hamba Bamba Funda's Early Childhood Development Project

With a cranberry flapjack treat and coffee in hand we set off for Kliptown for the second session of the Early Childhood Development Introductory Workshops. In the air this time was apprehension, would all the inductees return to continue with the workshop? The apprehension was a little prolonged for the 1st session as the ladies arrived a little later than agreed but never the less, all that had attended the 1st week completed the 2nd with one addition. “George” who we had met the previous week, “Bob’s” right hand man came for the 1st session and spoke to the women, lending his support to the project and stayed for some of the workshop. Monja opened by asking if anyone had put into practise, what they had learnt from the 1st session, all said they had in varying ways. “Angela” whose child had digestion/constipation issues the previous week said that she noticed an improvement even from last Saturday. “Oratile” who was brought this time by her mother was finding it easier to digest solid food during the week.

The opening theme in both sessions was experiencing Isolation. In turn two mothers were paired together, facing each other with their babies with one woman separated (back turned) on her own cradling her infant, in Isolation. For a minute at a time the coupled ladies had to make the other and their babies laugh in some laughing themselves, pulling a funny face or telling a story. This was done until all had made each other laugh and also had the experience of having their back turned, Monja then asked how it felt to have someone make you laugh. fun, it sets you free” “amazing” “exciting” “happy” ...were typical responses. Monja then asked how it felt to be in Isolation. “lonely” “uncomfortable” “sad” “felt excluded, wish I could join in” ...were typical responses. “now you can understand what your babies are going through” explains Monja “they feel what we feel when they are excluded”. She goes on by saying “if your child is left isolated, he/she starts to shut down, they need to be included” “did you also notice when you were laughing at each other, the children were also laughing” Monja now points out “it gives them a sense of connection” All agreed that this something important and they must work on this. “As a group everyone got to experience the power of laughter and what it feels like to have fun with their babies” concluded Monja Monja then asked the 1st group, who’s babies are mostly under 7 months what interaction did the mothers have with their children before they came for the session last week “playing on the floor” “sing to my baby” “throw in the air, from the knee” ...were typical responses. She encouraged them to “always look at your baby when interacting, this helps to form the connection” and “when they are sleeping gently sing and touch them to improve the connection” To demonstrate this one of the mothers sat next to Monja and allowed her to gently touch as squeeze her arm. When asked how did it feel “at peace with myself” was the reply, “because we were forming a connection” emphasizes Monja One of the ladies had written out a song to sing “thula thu...thula mywana thula sana...thula amama uzobuya tkuseni” The babies were laid out on a blanket and the mothers sang whilst looking, touching and squeezing. One of the infants started to roll over and his hand got stuck under his belly, the mother wanted to help to take his arm out. Monja stopped her, “don’t interfere, give the baby a chance to take out his own arm, if the arm stays stuck you can move the pelvis away from the floor a bit and this will give the baby a chance to move his own arm. When Monja did this to Austin he took out his own arm. Monja commented, if we keep interfering the baby will not learn” she goes on to say “don’t get too attached and do everything for them” there is a happy balance “know how and when to interact” This week’s “take away” ·encourage laughter with your child ·do not interfere if they need to learn The development of the baby is affected by the care and experiences parents provide for the children. Learning takes place through curiosity and exploration, if parents interfere too much, they take away the opportunity for the child to learn” reflected Monja.

The 2nd group’s children are a little older, from 8 to 24 months old so the activities were slightly different. Again, sitting on a blanket, the babies were encouraged to interact and then to establish the connection. Monja used counting on fingers as a good way of giving the baby a sense of his hand, whilst learning at the same time. Some of the children are walking, others are trying to emulate. Again, some of this group’s mums were helping too much by lifting them up into standing. Monja showed them by placing chairs in a line, tapping the chair or placing an object for them to reach the children will then move from seat to seat, simulating walking. After a while the children became agitated, starting to cry. Monja demonstrated by cradling the babies in front of you and gently tapping, squeezing and singing this will calm the baby down. Monja repeated the tapping and squeezing simulation on an adult by having the mother’s pair up, they then practiced on each other. When asked the reaction was very similar to the previous “at peace with myself”. Next was the blanket game. Two mothers hold the blanket at each end, the baby is placed inside and is rolled from side to side, on the floor or in the air. This is a fun game for the babies, generating lots of laughter. As not all the children could fit in all at the same time, the others found cards & CDs to play with and were encouraged to share with each other and play together. Next week Monja asked the mothers to bring raw materials so that they can make some toys.

This week’s “take away” ·with a partner play the blanket game, they also will build a connection ·set up chairs to encourage walking “It was really wonderful to see how the mother are participating and coming up with their own ideas and possibilities to engage with their babies. The mothers commented that they enjoy coming to the sessions, which is lovely to hear” Today’s exchange word was “unjani” are you feeling. At the end both groups asked Monja how many children she had? “none” she replied “that may be part of why I am here”, she continues “you never know I may adopt one day” Both groups were amazed “but you are so good with children” was a typical reply. To conclude the Lord’s Prayer was said by both groups.

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