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ECHAD — Early childhood achievement and development

ECHAD (the Hebrew word for “One,” in Arabic “Wahad”) is a unique partnership to advance the education and welfare of Arab-Israeli preschool-age children. Access to quality health care and education in the first years of life will make the difference between success and failure for these youngsters. Providing an early chance for these children and their families is essential to ensure their ability to grow and prosper as equal citizens in Israel. As partners, we work with the target community and provide them with the skills, training and funding to improve the services they have and to develop new ones. This bottom-up approach empowers the men, women and children to articulate their needs as a society and to develop solutions to meet these needs.

The people we help

Raising her four children in the Bedouin village of Lakiya, Nada has always played a central role in the household economy. With no preschool facility in the village, her children were always by her side helping her build tents, care for the sheep, and raise crops. Ironically, the modernization which has made her life a little bit easier resulted in Nada being unemployed and unskilled to provide her children with the tools to develop in today’s world. Nada, who participated in the Parents as Partners program, has just completed a five-month training program for paraprofessionals in the area of early childhood development. Today, Nada runs the children’s center in Lakiya where her children and others from the village can play together, enjoying toys and games that help develop cognitive, social and motor skills and meet the needs of Bedouin society.

What the program does

Nurses Initiative

Since 2003, over 25 health nurses have been trained to provide public health services to their local communities. The initiative is expanding its reach from the Bedouins in the south, through Arab-Israeli communities in central Israel to the Druze villages in the north, reaching over 2,500 families.

Each nurse undergoes a six-month leadership training program, and is then charged with developing a health and welfare intervention promotion program custom-designed for his or her specific community. Through this program, we are able to build positive and effective channels of communication between Arab-Israeli families and the health and other social service professionals in the community, and raise awareness of early childhood issues.

Fathers’ Alliance — Brit Avot

Studies have shown that children whose fathers are involved in their education and upbringing achieve more. However, getting fathers involved in parenting programs, especially in traditional societies such as the Arab-Israeli sector, has been an unmet challenge. Brit Avot is a program aiming to support fathers and father-child relationships by creating an alliance between fathers with parenting difficulties, social-community services, and employers.

There are currently three projects on the ground, with over 50 fathers participating in weekly parenting workshops facilitated by trained moderators.

Parents as Partners

Children growing up in Bedouin communities in Israel do not attend preschools or other early childhood facilities which could provide cognitive stimulation, toys and other means to address their developmental needs. The Parents as Partners program has trained over 20 local Bedouin women as community-based paraprofessionals. These women have moved on to establish local mother-child groups in their home communities, with 10 women bringing their children to the group where the children are exposed for the first time to toys and other equipment.

The mothers are learning the importance and joy of play, and seeing how it helps their children develop and flourish. The women now feel a part of a community where they find emotional and social support. They are now working together to establish eight half-day cooperative preschools serving approximately 120 children.

The partners

The ECHAD Partnership members are the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties; Ashalim; and the government of Israel Ministry of Health, Ministry of Welfare and Project Renewal, National Insurance Institute, AJEEC (The Arab Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation), a division of NISPED (Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development).

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