A new early life initiative is born

A new early life initiative is born

“When you pay attention to the beginning of the story, you can change the whole story” – Raffi Cavoukian

Science tells us that the first thousand days of life, from conception to two years of age, is a short but critical phase of development that ultimately determines the trajectory of each young life. This is when the building blocks for learning are laid and the brain grows to 70% of its adult size.

At Common Good we believe that all children deserve a strong start in life and the opportunity to reach their full potential – no matter the community or circumstances they are born into. Our early life research points to the valuable contribution that the local church can play in this crucial phase – by bringing its reach, its connection to community, its resources and its people – to support young families with children in the first thousand days (FTD).

Many congregations from diverse denominational backgrounds have already embraced these findings and started a journey with Common Good to explore how they can serve members of their community in this way. Recently we visited the Bay City Church in Capricorn, to find out how they are caring for the very smallest among their congregation. You can watch a video about the inspirational beginnings of their early life ministry here.

Positioned for impact

On 3 June 2019, this video was played to a room of over 100 people – church leaders, congregants and other interested community members – representing over 25 local churches from areas of Cape Town as diverse as Kuilsriver, Khayelitsha, Durbanville, Innercity, Langa, Rondebosch, Wynberg, Lake Side, Constantia, Fish Hoek, and Kommetjie. They had all joined us for an Early Life Insights Evening, which aimed to provide both compelling motivation for investing in FTD and practical steps towards achieving this.

Guest speakers outlined the medical, psycho-social and theological reasons for focusing on FTD, and looked at the ways in which the church is beautifully and uniquely positioned to meet this deep need. We also interviewed people who have personally experienced this stage of life, or who have walked alongside parents and caregivers during this critical time.  Their stories highlighted the inherent challenges of this often overwhelming season, and what a difference responsive care can make towards families and babies flourishing during this time.

Sikunye – connect, care, thrive

Common Good also used this opportunity to announce the launch of Sikunye, a network intended to equip local churches to better connect with and care for families within the FTD. Sikunye, which means ‘we are together’ in isiXhosa, seeks to provide FTD-relevant resources to members of the local church, including: Scripture affirming the Heart of God towards children, sermon scripts, small-group materials, ante- and post-natal healthcare information, as well as knowledge and training aimed at enhancing babies’ development and growth (e.g. guidance on home visits and the art of book sharing). Richard Lundie, leader of Common Good’s Congregational Support Team, characterised Sikunye “as a movement to ensure that children and families are fully seen, acknowledged and supported by the church community.”

“Our hope is that Sikunye becomes a platform through which Christ-followers stay connected and informed in their efforts to ensure that babies and families are cared for and are thus able to thrive. We want to keep inspiring people on this topic while also providing them with the tangible resources needed to accomplish this goal, and to assist the local church in leading the way,” said Ruth Lundie, who heads up Common Good’s Early Life Initiative.

“I am confident that as people undertake this journey and understand this subject better, they will feel compelled to respond to Sikunye’s call to action: to join together in supporting parents and caregivers through the first thousand days of children’s lives.”

Khanya Mncwabe, Sikunye Communications Specialist

“Right now, we are at the beginning of this story,” explained Ruth. “Common Good is committed to reaching, encouraging and supporting local churches to come around parents in FTD. In this way, we can transform the developmental trajectory of individual children and families, and over the long term, impact whole communities and ultimately the nations of the world.”

If you would like more information on how to support families during this time or guidance on how to become a more FTD-friendly church, we encourage you to read Chapter 10 of our research report, explore the resources on this site or get in touch with us.

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