Jazmine lives with her parents and two younger siblings in a remote Native American village on the Northwest Pacific coast of Washington State. Over the course of Jazmine’s two-year participation in Save the Children’s Early Steps to School Success program, the withdrawn toddler, once unwilling to interact with others, blossomed into a four-year-old social butterfly who smothers her two younger siblings with affection. As a result of the program–designed to assist children with language, social, and emotional development and equip parents with the skills and knowledge to successfully support their child’s growth–Jazmine’s conversational skills and cognitive abilities are equivalent to those of a much older child.
The beauty of the Olympic rainforest that surrounds Jazmine’s hometown is in stark contrast with the day-to-day struggle of the local families to make ends meet through seasonal work at the local fishery–one of the few employers in town. Most parents, if they are lucky enough to be employed, often have to do shift work and lack the time and the means to drive the 30 miles to the nearest library to get books for their children. That’s why Save the Children’s program provides families in the area with age-appropriate reading materials, activities and learning tools they may otherwise not have access to. Jazmine’s brothers, Adam, 2, and five-month-old Hunter, are now also enrolled in the Early Steps program and are already showing progress.
Save the Children began operating in Washington State in 2008, providing early childhood education services to some of the region’s most underserved rural communities, one third of whom are Native American families living in the beautiful but remote Olympic rainforest. Currently, our Early Steps to School Success program reaches hundreds of children and caregivers in four communities along the Pacific Coast: Taholah and Lake Quinault in Grays Harbor County, and Ocean Beach and South Bend in Pacific County.
One common factor affects most of the families in these communities: poverty. Growing up in impoverished conditions can have detrimental effects on children that can be seen very early in life. In partnership with schools and community-based organizations, Early Steps to School Success program works to break the cycle of poverty by providing education services through a home visiting model for children ages 0-3 and transition to school activities for children ages 3-5.