Young Maasai children are now safe from the extremes of Kenyan weather and wild animals thanks to New Zealanders’ support. As well as protecting children the Iloodokilani early childhood development (ECD) centres provide a stimulating environment for young minds and bodies to grow and develop.

The Maasai community have long had Iloip (meaning shade) where grandmothers have traditionally taken care of young children under a tree while parents work. In response to the changing way of life most of the Iloipi (plural) have been converted to ECD centres with teachers financially supported by the community. In such a poor community, these ECD centres have remained outdoors with untrained teachers and few, if any, resources.

With the community’s hard work and financial support from ChildFund New Zealand, the Loipi Early Childhood Centre and Development Project was created and eight ECD centres were constructed and equipped. Teachers were also trained in partnership with the Kenyan Ministry of Education. The first two centres to be built were recognised by the Kenyan government as "models of excellence". Children are already benefiting from better quality teaching and the safer, more stimulating learning environment.

This is a three-year project which is nearing the end of its second year. The ultimate aim is to have the ECD centres supported entirely by the community in partnership with the Ministry of Education. To ensure this happens community members are being trained to manage the ECD centres.

During the past three months (January to March 2011) the project achieved the following:

- 8 ECD centres have been fenced to keep them safe from wild animals

- 3 new ECD centres are being built and will be completed by June 2011

- Child Friendly Furniture has been purchased for 4 ECD centres

- Indoor materials bought for 8 ECD centres

Outdoor play materials for all 8 ECD centres bought – a swing, see-saw and slide for each

- The Ministry of Education has upgraded 3 of the ECD centres to Primary Schools, which means they will benefit from the Free Primary Education programme and free school feeding programme. The government has posted teachers to these schools.

- Unimix nutritional supplement despatched to each of the 8 ECD centres to enable supplementary feeding for the next 6 months

- Ministry of Health doctors conducted health checks, including Vitamin A supplementation and growth monitoring, in all 8 ECD centres, which also means that malnourished or sick children can be identified and helped earlier  

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