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Helping children a world away
Author: Kathryn Kirkland
Posted: May 19, 2008

THE CIRCLE OF ADULTS, including PSU's Christine Chaille, rolled a ball back and forth as a sad, suspicious-looking group of children watched. The children live in an orphanage in Chennai, India, and play is not a normal part of their day. They eventually joined in and ended up sitting on adult laps, smiling and laughing.

Children in Indian orphanage"It was a magical moment," says Chaille, education faculty, who was in India this winter with Frank Mahler, a teacher in PSU's Helen Gordon Child Development Center. The pair was testing their curriculum, which includes introducing more playtime, for a Portland-based nonprofit, Hands to Hearts International.

Usually, early childhood programs focus on developmental milestones, but Chaille and Mahler's model empowers parents and caregivers by teaching them to change the way they nurture, care for, and interact with children on a day-to-day basis in developing countries.

"International aid organizations are already contacting us to discuss how they can use our curriculum to train caregivers in their own early child health programs," says Laura Peterson, Hands to Hearts founder and director.

[photo: Children living in an orphanage in India]

Around the Park Blocks: Spring 2008