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Adapting HIPPY for Refugee Families

Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) is an at-home early childhood education program that is designed to support parents, primarily mothers, in their critical role as their child’s first and most important teacher. The Multicultural HIPPY stream has programs specifically designed to support Government Assisted Refugees, such as Reviving Hope and Home (RHH). New to Canada, these families have a lot on their plate. They are busy with the process of resettling, finding their new community, caring for their young children, and maintaining their household. So how does HIPPY fit in?

It takes a dedicated and talented Home Visitor who works with these families to adapt the HIPPY program delivery to suit their needs. Samara is one such Home Visitor, who creatively breaks down the HIPPY program to make it more relevant to these families’ lives.

The HIPPY curriculum includes concepts that prepare preschool aged children to enter into kindergarten. These concepts include shapes, sizes, colors, letters, numbers, and other essential building blocks for learning. Usually, these concepts are taught by the mother to her child using the provided HIPPY materials. But when Samara began working with the families in RHH, she saw that they have other pressing needs and realized that these HIPPY concepts can be taught in other ways.

Adapting the HIPPY Program

Folding laundry is an excellent example of one of the unique ways Samara delivers the HIPPY curriculum. In one example, Samara works with a family that has three children under the age of four. With three young children, all requiring a lot of attention, the mother is always busy and requires activities that allow her to multitask. While folding laundry, Samara suggests to the mother she ask her child to identify big and small. The child is encouraged to put big pants on one side and small pants on the other. She also coaches the mother on how to respond when the child gets the concept wrong – not saying “no” or “wrong” but instead asking them to “try again”. This keeps the child’s confidence up while learning new concepts that can be challenging. The mother also learns how to teach colours this way, by asking the child to put the socks in different coloured piles.

At this age in a child’s life, any activity can be an opportunity to learn, prepare for school, and gain independence. Samara’s efforts in adapting the HIPPY program allow the families to excel. They tell her with pride when their child’s teacher is impressed by how much their child already knows coming into kindergarten. These mothers are eager to tell others about the HIPPY program and the ways in which it has helped them.

HIPPY Supports Mothers

Samara’s work doesn’t stop there. She makes an enormous impact on the mothers’ lives as well. New to Canada, many of the mothers Samara works with are reserved in their interactions and afraid of leaving their house, thinking that people are looking at them or following them. Samara recognizes the challenges that they face and works together with them to slowly build their confidence. Samara sees the change as the mothers begin attending group meeting with their neighbours, and then by themselves. Or when the mothers are confident to go to their child’s schools and speak with their teachers.

Samara has been working with HIPPY since 2016, and is currently a Home Visitor for the Reviving Hope and Home program at Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISSofBC). Each year, Samara supports ten families who have been in Canada as little as four months to three years.

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