The Little Ripples Curriculum serves as a wonderful model for refugee-led early childhood empathy education and development in conflict and asylum regions. Against Atrocity hopes to serve as a sounding board and resource for teachers and other interested individuals inspired to using this model worldwide.
iACT believes that if we can foster personal connections between survivors of mass atrocities and those who are willing to open their hearts and help, then we can change the way the world responds to mass atrocities. iACT does this with all ages: from preschool to high school to college to community and faith-based groups. The empathy fostered through authentic and diverse campaigns and educational programs is at the heart of our work.
Little Ripples is an early childhood development program led by refugee women that use empathy to foster peace building, celebrate diversity, and build upon the foundation of nonviolent communication. iACT believes that through supporting cognitive and social-emotional learning rooted in empathy, that the community can break out of the cycle of violence endemic to refugee populations.
The experiences children have in refugee camps or settlements will shape their future. While investments in early childhood have been found to be one of the most cost-effective strategies for improving the long-term economic, health, and social well-being of both the child and his or her community, there are no sustained or prioritized innovative solutions for this vulnerable age group. Consequently, generations of children continue to be at risk of irreversible long-term damages.
Eighty-five percent of brain development occurs before the age of five, including that of the foundation for social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development. During this time, key characteristics such as curiosity, dexterity, and socialization develop. The impact of exposure to traumatic events can produce high levels of stress for the child, delaying or damaging the brain and severely impeding development well into adulthood. Furthermore, the care children receive from their families influences their development. In refugee contexts, adults also suffer greatly and must focus on daily survival such as collecting food rations and looking for work, impeding their ability to provide for their young children.
Little Ripples addresses the gap in humanitarian aid for ages three to five and empowers young women ages eighteen to twenty-five to be part of the solution in their community and for their future.
Further, iACT has created a Little Ripples Global Citizens program, a U.S.-based preschool curriculum that connects children ages 3-5 with their peers living in refugee camps, through empathy-based and developmentally appropriate tools, activities, and resources that meet nationally-recognized preschool learning foundations. The program fosters connection and empathy, and creates the foundation for global ambassadorship at the earliest stages of development in the next generation.
Global Citizens was designed to meet requests by preschool and kindergarten teachers in the U.S. who wanted their children to connect with children attending Little Ripples, an early childhood education program that trains and employs refugee women to provide culturally inspired preschool education to improve the early development of refugee children exposed to conflict. After learning about the success of Little Ripples, the teachers knew it could impact the lives of their students, but needed a curriculum and packaged resources to effectively create the connection.
Global Citizens is a 20-lesson curriculum grounded in the 4 C’s -- critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, creativity & innovation -- and seeks to plant the seeds of empathy, compassion, and interdependency. The curriculum can be used and tailored to a diversity of preschool philosophies. Each day, the program begins with simple mindfulness and breathing exercises that Little Ripples students also participate in. Just as Little Ripples utilizes play-based and student-driven components, so does GC. Additionally, each daily lesson includes an objective, resources, and activities that teach students about themselves and the life of their refugee peers. They also focus on social-emotional development, language and literacy, language development (can be tailored to dual-immersion language programs), mathematics, science, performing arts, physical development, health, history–social science, and science. GC is a safe way to share the joys of participation, cultural ambassadorship, and empathy-based living within the U.S. community and at the earliest stages of child development.
iACT also facilitates Camp Darfur, a refugee camp-like exhibit that places the ongoing genocide in Darfur, Sudan in historical context alongside past genocides including Armenia, the Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Bosnia, and in the final tent in the series asks, "Who let is happen" in order to engage guests in the critical thinking around who a perpetrator is and when individuals become upstanders rather than bystanders. Camp Darfur has been hosted at more than 95 high schools, colleges, and in communities across the United States and reached more than 110,000 people. By sharing images, videos, historical facts, articles, and personal profiles of victims, survivors, and upstanders from each genocide, visitors are engaged at every level of sensory. iACT works with the host group to create programming around the exhibit such as panels, talks by genocide survivors, space for reflection, and action opportunities.
See more about iACT here: www.iactivism.org