Our Approach: Holistic
ECF is guided by the principle of 'first call for children'. It is rooted in the understanding that the early years of any human being are critical formative years. Deprivation during childhood results in a lifetime of irreversible damage. Children are the best social and economic investments that can be made, privately or publicly, especially if the future is to be better. However millions are condemned to a harsh life of deprivation. There is no doubt that the children of today are the citizens, leaders, professionals and workers of tomorrow. A core focus of ECF is to assist children on the brink: those who are destitute, have lost one or both parents, or have been abandoned and are at great risk of harm and further disadvantage.
Traditional solutions for such children often involve institutionalization; a model that is often unsustainable. ECF seeks to demonstrate an innovative approach that seeks to assist and empower families and communities to care and support highly disadvantaged children in great need of help. While ECF prioritizes destitute and at-risk children and adolescents, it also seeks to help their families and communities protect and help themselves.
For ECF, poverty is much more than lack of income; it is about lack of opportunity, stunted capacities early in life, and underdeveloped capabilities. We believe that an enabling environment of primary health care, good education, counseling, together with the cultivation of economic opportunity and a culture of initiative can largely determine what individuals can accomplish.
Education and Counseling
Basic education is not only a central ECF goal, but also a means. Education facilitates economic development, enables social participation, and instills values while enhancing freedom through opportunity. ECF teaches more than literacy, numeracy and basic cognitive skills. Our education is fundamentally about core values. Teachers are selected not only for the caliber of their abilities but also for their subscription to the core values of ECF: honesty, children first, industry, cooperation, responsibility, initiative. Our teachers must be able to encourage independent thinking, hygiene, values of respect for oneself, for others, and for the environment.
We encourage students to be active participants in their own education, to take learning out of the classroom, while teaching and learning from one another. We adhere to the requirements of the Ethiopian Ministry of Education; we emphasize engaging lesson plans, learning through experience and experimentation.
ECF Village does not limit the educational experience to academic instruction; therefore sports activities, field trips, literacy and environmental conservation campaigns help our children develop values and act in socially responsible fashion.
Ill health, lack of hygiene and sanitary facilities constitute major threats to child survival and well-being. At ECF, we offer health care services and promote preventative behaviors. A modest clinic on site is staffed with a health care professional and is equipped with basic facilities, including drugs, instruments and health education aids. Each child is screened and given the necessary vaccinations at the time of initial enrollment. The health care worker monitors the health status and growth of the children, the nutritional balance of the food and environmental sanitation. Families meet biannually with a health care worker to discuss the health and nutritional status of the child, issues of sanitation, nutrition, prevention and health maintenance at home.
Children are almost always malnourished, often severely so, upon entry into the program. Not only is malnourishment a grave danger to a young child's health, it thwarts their ability to learn and develop. Therefore ECF provides students with three meals per day: breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack. The menu varies daily and is closely monitored by a health professional. The meals provide students with energy to attend class, play, learn and grow.
Environmental conservation is a core ECF value. Such protection is necessary for perpetuity but also because it contributes to human productive capability. We are concerned not only with the protection of existing resources, but also of preventative and regenerative measures. Recently, the rate of natural resource degradation in the Aleltu area is reaching a point where basic fuel wood needs cannot be met.
Hence, core component of our curriculum is environmental preservation and sustainability. ECF children have all planted trees and have a class devoted to Environmental Science and Nature. In addition, a biodigestor has been installed which converts human and animal waste safely into usable energy (biogas) as well as treated wastewater and (compost) fertilizer.