Pachacamac, Peru: high rates of poverty, domestic violence, malnutrition, child abuse and neglect mean that the children of this community are at a distinct disadvantage.

Student nurses with members of the Wawa Illari team

Families in Pachacamac often live with inadequate water/sanitation, poor hygiene and limited access to nutritious foods leading to dietary deficiencies and malnutrition.All this makes it a pretty bad place to live, but a good example of an environment that can put at risk healthy brain development in small children

Children in poverty have a higher chance of adversity that risks disrupting brain development. This is a devastating waste of human capital that leaves the next generation ill-equipped to solve the enormous challenges that lock individuals, communities and societies in poverty. How can we nurture healthy child and brain development for a lasting impact? If we get it right, children thrive and have a better chance of going on to be healthy and happy adults. Getting it right in early childhood includes providing a loving and safe environment and good nutrition, both crucial factors in the development of a child’s brain.

This is why last year SDIA coordinated the work of a team of inspired Subud professionals working in the field of early childhood health, nutrition and development to submit a project in a Canadian government call for proposals. The proposal was made by SDIA, SD Canada, ICDP Peru, Asociación Vivir (Ecuador) and A Child’s Garden of Peace (US), and was selected for funding over two years in a scientific, peer-reviewed process – out of 800 project applications from around the world!

The plan is to train teachers and nursing and other students at the University Inca Garcilaso de la Vega in Lima (UIGV), in a community approach to improve early childhood development. This will include enhanced parent-child interactions, and growing and consuming healthy foods in combinations that are best for early brain development.

What is innovative about this project – called Wawa Illari, which means ‘Child Star’ in Quechua – is that it could transform the context of nursing and care in Peru, by improving knowledge of nursing graduates on the first 1,000 days of life, and providing the nutritional, medical, psychosocial and community supports to children that lead to the best developmental outcomes for children.

With a budget of $200,000 over 18 months, this pilot project will benefit a group of 100 families in the community of Pachacamac and all nursing students in the Faculty of Nursing of UIGV, which trains 200 nurses yearly. Over 5 years, thousands of nurses will benefit, each of whom will in turn impact the lives of tens of thousands of children and families over the course of their careers.

The first step towards community intervention will be the training of 30 student nurses – who are already working in communities as part of their practice – in ICDP and nutrition. They will pass on their training to their colleagues, and only in September 2018 will they begin to go into the community, as a lot of preparation and training is needed to intervene in such a deprived area.

“Nurses in Peru are the frontline health workers, yet their studies do not cover in depth the psychosocial or nutritional needs of the developing brain. We will add modules to the nursing curriculum and a guided practicum to working with poor families,” says Ana Sofia Mazzini, Director of ICDP Peru.

The project to train nurses in ICDP has been in the pipeline for a couple of years but did not come about until now, partly due to a lack of funding. According to Nicoletta Lailah Armstrong, Chair of the ICDP Foundation, ICDP and Susila Dharma came together at the right time to be able to implement this more complex project.

Many thanks to SD Britain and SD USA for supporting the beginning of project implementation in 2017 and 2018 by funding a pilot project in Lima to test out community needs in Pachacamac!