Child-to-Child is an innovative educational methodology in which school-age children learn ways to protect the
health and well-being of other children, especially those who are younger or have special needs. Child-to-Child was launched during the International Year of the Child, 1979. It is now used in more than 60 developing countries, as well as in Europe, the USA, and Canada. Many early Child-to-Child activities were developed in Project Piaxtla in Mexico, the villager-run health care program that gave birth to PROJIMO. Key to this adventurous approach was Martín Reyes Mercado, a village health promoter who worked with Piaxtla, and then with PROJIMO, for 2 decades. Martín now works with CISAS in Nicaragua, facilitating Child-to-Child throughout Latin America.
Child-to-Child for Disabled Children
Children can be either cruel or kind to the child who is different. Sometimes it takes only a little awareness-raising for a group to shift from cruelty to kindness. One of Child-to-Child's goals is to help non-disabled children understand disabled children, be their friends, include them in their games, and help them to overcome difficulties and become more self-reliant. To give school-aged children an experience of what it is like to have a disability, a few of them can be given a temporary handicap. To simulate a lame leg, a stick is tied to the leg of the fastest runner in the class, to give him a stiff knee. Then the children run a race and the “lame” child comes in last. The facilitator asks this temporarily handicapped child what it feels like to be left behind. Finally, all the children try to think of games they can play where a child with a lame leg can take part without experiencing any handicap: for example marbles or checkers. A variety of activities can also be designed to help children appreciate the strengths and abilities of the disabled child, rather than to just notice their weaknesses. For this, skits or role-plays can be helpful. Various role plays, games, and activities to sensitize children to the feelings and abilities of children with different disabilities can be found in the Child-to-Child chapter in the book, Disabled Village Children.
The need to include disabled children in activities concerning disability
Many examples of Child-to-Child activities have been discussed in two of David Werner's earlier books: Helping Health Workers Learn and Disabled Village Children. Some of the activities focus on what children can do to prevent accidents. The books also suggest enjoyable ways in which school children can test the vision and hearing of those who are beginning school, as well as things they can do so that the handicapped child can participate and learn more effectively.Unfortunately, in many countries, disability-related Child-to-Child activities are frequently conducted in ways that do not include disabled children in central or leading roles. Too often activities are about disabled children, not with them. In Child-to-Child events led by PROJIMO, disabled children often play a central role. They make it a point to involve school-aged children—disabled and non-disabled together—as helpers and volunteers, and as “agents of change” among their peers. Child-to-Child, at its best, introduces teaching methods that are learner-centered and “discovery-based,” not authoritarian. It encourages children to make their own observations, draw their own conclusions, and take appropriate, self-directed action. This problem-solving approach emphasizes cooperation rather than competition. PROJIMO makes an effort to get disabled children into normal schools. It uses Child-to-Child activities to help both school children and teachers appreciate and build on the strengths of disabled children. It designs activities to address the needs, barriers, and possibilities of individual disabled children in the school and community setting. Disabled activists—some of whom are disabled school children—often take the lead in this process.
Encouraging Disabled and Non-Disabled Children to Play and Learn Together
Two of the project way that are being done to encourage interaction between non-disabled and disabled children are: Children's
A Playground for ALL Children.
The idea for making a low-cost rehabilitation playground came from a refugee camp in Thailand. That playground had a wide range of fine equipment, made with bamboo … But when we visited the playground, there was one big problem: no children! The playground was surrounded by a high fence with a locked gate. The reason, the manager explained, was that the local, non-disabled children used to play there, and constantly broke the equipment. So the local kids were locked out. Too often, however, so were the disabled children! To avoid such a problem, PROJIMO, in Mexico, invited local school children to help build and maintain a playground, with the agreement that they could play there too. The children eagerly volunteered, and the playground has led to an active integration of disabled and non-disabled kids.
Outreach In Schools
Schools are visited by a team of disabled volunteers (school age ones as well if possible). The children are introduced to the volunteers and maybe a story or two are told about accidents that led to a volunteer being disabled. The children particpate in various activities in order to become more familiar with what life is like for a disabled person. For example they explore the school with wheel chairs experiencing for themselves the accessability issues. They also do an accident prevention exercise in groups discussing different ways that accidents can result in becoming disabled. Each group then presents their ideas to the others. It is hoped that this program raises the compassion and understanding of the issues that their disabled peers must deal with every day. It also hopes to prevent abled youngsters becoming disabled.
For more information:
Rigoberto Delgado Zavala (fomerly the Spanish Teacher at PROJIMO Coyotitan) is actively running a niño-a-niño (child-to-child program) in Sinaloa as well as helping to identify child recipients for wheelchairs for the PROJIMO wheelchair workshop in Duranguito. He can be reached at email@example.com