Marcia Meiry dos Santos is one of the visiting agents of the Happy Child Programme in Parnamirim, in the northeastern state of Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil. For over a year, she has been working with Maria Aparecida, Tiago, Raquel and her two younger brothers. Rachel’s movements used to be very limited. But since starting physiotherapy sessions in 2018, her motor development has become remarkable.
Raquel has even been able to join a local school, where she is chaperoned by her father. Tiago’s presence, however, does not seem to interfere with the girl’s autonomy. “Since the father is at the school, I asked him to stay close, but not inside the classroom, because I have seen that she interacts well. I turn to him only if I need to,” says Paula Germana Franco Dantas, Raquel’s teacher.
School staff have been surprised by Raquel’s academic and social skills “She even solves conflicts. She teaches a classmate to share. I once noticed a child sneaking another child’s toy and she said ‘No, you can’t take it’,” Ms Franco Dantas says. Sharing is one of the lessons Raquel learns from home visits that are the first pillar of the Happy Child Programme. Four times a month, Márcia goes to the family home and performs the methodology known as ‘Care for Child Development,’ implemented by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten,” says Raquel, demonstrating that she has already learned to count in English. The girl also knows the alphabet in Portuguese and can name colours in English and Spanish.
The main objective of the visits is to contribute to child development in early childhood and strengthen family bonding through play and other activities. This helps build relationships of trust and develop cognitive, physical, social, and emotional skills.
“It’s a great exchange of experience, not only for the householders, but for us, visitors as well. We learn lifetime lessons. And it´s not just Raquel’s house, we visit many households and every family is a unique experience,” says Ms dos Santos.