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Week 1 : Hamba Bamba Funda's Early Childhood Development Pilot Project

Rain had been forecast on the day but up until we started packing the car it was clear. Just as we started loading the heavens opened with lightening, we had quite a bit to fit in.

Trying to keep dry the car was filled to the brim with a cot, clothing patterns and pictures for the school, toys & food for the mothers, more cloths for the shop and the camera we set in the middle of the storm.

A sense of achievement was in the air...the project was finally starting, we were ready, were the mothers?

Half way into the journey we received notification that as it is raining the mothers may be reluctant to go out with their babies, something that was understandable.

Just as we approached the outskirts of Kliptown we could see it was clearing up which is when we received word they would come, albeit a bit late.

The Pilot, like the Introduction had been split into two groups, the 1st being the baby was under a year old, the 2nd twelve months and older. The sessions are now to be 1½ hours long to maximise the learning ability.

When the mothers started arriving for both groups, it was noted that there were some new additions so at which point Monja explained to them what the Pilot Project was going to entail.

She also mentioned that

· HBF is seeking accreditation from SETA for the course that they are now attending

· Attendance to all the classes is necessary for them to be able to complete the course, a register is taken each week

· As caregivers/mothers they should practice the techniques they learn on a Saturday during the week on their babies

All seemed to buy in.

The theme for this week was connect with your baby.

It may have been because of the weather but the 1st group babies seemed to be tired when they arrived, many were sleeping.

Monja had both the groups mothers relax for 5 minutes in silence at the beginning, either laying on the floor or resting against a wall, laying their children on the floor so the sessions could start in calm state and they could be present with themselves, this was a good way to start.

From the 1st group taking baby “Jayden” so she could demonstrate, especially to the new mothers Monja started tapping the chest and talking to her, introducing herself as a way of connecting. “if “Jayden” is not looking at me see if you can try and find her, attracting her attention” noted Monja. She reiterated this is so that the baby start to map out its own body, whilst doing so she says “shaya, shaya, shaya” which means “tap, tap, tap” in Zulu. “Jayden” then started to interact with Monja so she moved to squeeze her saying “bamba, yeka” which translates to “squeeze and release”. Monja then started to press down on her chest “she can now start to feel her back”, “now she is totally engaged as she feels what is happening to her”

So the mothers could understand what the sensation feel like, Monja had them tapping and squeezing their own bodies repeating the relevant saying.

Next each mother laid out their own child and Monja demonstrated how to turn the infant onto their sides tapping the back, next she squeezed the front and back together, still part of the mapping process. In this position Monja then showed if the free leg was rolled over grounded one, rubbing the foot on the floor this would “stimulate and strengthen the pelvis” which will make them be able to sit properly quicker, something that would become relevant later.

The transition from this position to stomach was next shown with “Jayden”, encouraging the babies to move their own arms out of the way so they could be flat, noting if they were lifting their heads. With the infants like this Monja could then bend, push and stimulate her legs, bringing attention to the pelvis.

Demonstrating how to return the babies to their backs, Monja and the mothers then started to shake rattles in front of them, again to encourage the connection. Some took a bit of time but eventually they all started to notice and grab at the rattles for themselves.

By now most of the children had become restless so songs were sung to calm them down.

With the mothers and babies a little more relaxed a conversation ensued regarding baby “milestones”, in particular sitting. It was noted that two babies of the same age, one was starting to sit and appeared to be stable, where as the others were sitting but was unstable. Monja then demonstrated by making a V with her straightened legs the child could be cradled in her lap sitting but still supported. Next she showed by taking a rattle and shaking it away from her straightened leg the baby would want to move and grab it, pushing with its legs to reach. This again brings attention to the pelvis. “If an infant starts to sit too early it will become stiff” points out Monja.

“it is important for parents to understand that they should support their baby where they are at and not make them do things they are not ready to do” concludes Monja.

The 2nd group now started arriving, a little late with some new arrivals who were keen to find out what the project was all about, Monja repeated her earlier speech.

After the 5 minutes relax the group, for the benefit of the newcomers tapping and squeezing ensued, Monja demonstrated on one of the new babies the technique.

As the babies became restless the group now started singing songs, this had the desired effect and some normality returned.

As the children are a little older they are able to play games as part of the learning process. Monja paired the mothers up in 2’s/3’s with straight legs in a V with their feet touching. With a tennis ball in hand they launched it to each other on the ground. After a while the babies became interested and joined in.

They also sat with their legs straight and started to roll the balls “children like to mimic and learn from their parents, this is a great source for their development” Monja explains.

‘Clinton” one of the older boys now started to throw the ball with force at one of the other children, his guardian “Anna” explained he doesn’t seem to know the difference between soft and hard. Monja asked “Anna” to shout at her, which she did. Monja then asked her to shout louder, then louder, then even louder, then even louder. Now Monja asked “Anna” to keep shouting but gradually decrease the volume. Monja now threw a ball harder and harder in the direction of “Clinton” hitting the wall returning to her, he was mimicking. Then as with the shouting she started to decrease the speed of the ball at which point he started to throw with less pace.

“if your baby starts crying/screaming then cry/scream louder back at them and continue reducing the volume, they will follow suit and have understanding of the difference between soft and loud” explains Monja “this can also be communicated when you tap & squeeze...tap & squeeze harder, then reduce the force” Monja concludes.

Both groups as a close, Monja had again the mothers relaxing either on the floor or against a wall for 3 minutes so all were calm when they left.

“it is important for parents to find time during the day to pause and check in with themselves. If the parent can find peace and calm within themselves they will transfer this to their baby” Monja concludes.

All seemed to enjoy the refreshment that was provided after both sessions.

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