One year ago, the IRC in Phoenix started an innovative project called the Child Watch Center that is getting great reviews from participating families.
When they arrive, refugee families are required to attend a series of cultural orientation classes meant to prepare them to navigate their new lives in Arizona. Without access to child care, IRC staff found that many families were disengaged during classes, and mothers especially showed low attendance. The IRC identified that one of the greatest barriers to learning was the need for child care, so that both women and men could attend classes equally.
To overcome this barrier, the IRC turned to the community for assistance. Support from the Jett & Julie Anderson Fund, Mother’s Grace Foundation, and individual community members opened the doors to the Child Watch Center. As a result of this support, the IRC created a nurturing place for children, allowing both parents to receive critical information that will impact their family’s integration.
The Child Watch Center officially opened in July of 2016 and immediately saw an improvement in engagement, attendance and overall learning for adults and children. As parents attend classes at the IRC office, their children are now able to participate in a language rich environment of discovery and play, while being exposed to structure and education in Arizona. Children are given lessons in Basic English and math skills as well as the opportunity to gain valuable social skills. Many of the children in the program have never attended school and are able to learn school appropriate behaviors, such as sharing, working in a group, standing in a line, and asking to use the restroom. Nearly 420 children have benefited from the program since 2016.
Stories of Hope
Child Watch changed the lives of a wide variety of refugee families. Here are a few examples, directly from Child Watch participants:
Malak*, Syrian mother of four said, “Prior to Child Watch, I was not able to attend any of my classes. I had to stay home with my children. I feel relief and appreciation for the program. I can finally learn and so can my children. I am happy that they were able to feel like kids again after having spent years stuck inside the house in Jordan for fear of safety.”
Hind*, mother of three from Syria reported, “The program helped me feel emotionally comfortable. My children are more prepared for school, and have learned to be more organized at school and at home!”
Ko*, Burmese mother of two referred to Child Watch as a “stress release”. She felt that they were safe and was able to relax during class breaks knowing the children were engaged and playing.
Fatima*, Syrian mother of three, is always excited when she arrives. Child Watch had ignited a desire to learn in her children. “They wake up early, always trying to rush us to the IRC.”
Stories of success are abundant, as the program is extraordinarily helpful in easing the transition to their new lives for both parents and their children. Child Watch allows parents and children to minimize their fears, resettle with guidance, and develop stronger bonds between parent and child.
Child Watch would not have been possible without the support of the Jett & Julie Anderson Foundation, Mother’s Grace and the dozens of individual supporters who saw a value in reaching refugee youth when they first arrive. We are grateful that our community rallied around this project and made it a reality. We are seeking additional support to ensure that Child Watch is sustainable, and that future refugee children can have fun and learn at the Center. If you would like to support Child Watch or other IRC programs in Phoenix please contact Nicky Walker, Development Manager, at nicky.walker [at] rescue.org.
*Names have been changed for privacy.
Story by Nicky Walker. Photos by Julia Arredondo.