The Early Childhood Project started in 1988 and grew out of Brighton’s Development Education movement which was known as Worldwise and had been set up in about 1980. Working locally with Oxfam and UNICEF, we set about bringing a global dimension into the secondary school classroom.
Development education plays a vital role in helping children and young people recognise their responsibilities as citizens of the global community, equipping them with the skills required to make informed decisions and take responsible actions.
Young people were encouraged to critically examine their own values and attitudes, appreciate similarities between peoples everywhere and value diversity, understand the global context of their local lives and develop skills to combat injustice, prejudice and discrimination. All of this knowledge, development of skills and understanding enabled young people to make informed decisions about how they could play an active role in the global community.
Worldwise worked with education students at the University of Sussex and developed links with international student groups.
Think global, act local
In the spirit of think global, act local, Worldwise developed UNICEF’s non-uniform days so that funds could be raised and to make links across the developing world. As this was before the internet, it took longer to make connections.
Changing to an early years project
What appealed to us at the time was the notion that if we could work with young children in early years settings and with the adults in their lives, we might combat prejudice and discrimination. We wanted a just and sustainable world where everyone was valued, and we felt that with optimism and action we could make a better world by working with younger children by championing children’s rights.
It was in 1986 and 1987 that ideas to take some of the Development Education principles and transpose them into the education and thus the lives of younger children started to be discussed. The founders of the Early Childhood Project met through their work with the Pre-school Learning Alliance, collaborations with Worldwise and other community groups active in Brighton and Hove at the time.
Clare and Chris Rolfe and the Toy Library begins
In early 1988, two leading volunteers with Brighton Development Education Group, Clare and Chris Rolfe moved to Sudan with their young children, Tommy and Louise. They were community activists living and working in a Sudanese village helping the local community to develop sustainable crop growing methods.
In May 1988 they went to Khartoum for a birthday celebration and all four of them were killed outright by a terrorist bomb.
The news hit international and national headlines and locally the Argus. Clare and Chris were Quakers and the local Friends Meeting House and others across the country collected funds in the Rolfe’s memory. In September 1988, Worldwise proudly opened the doors of the Early Childhood Project, based at the Brighthelm Centre. It had been decided that the Early Childhood Project would be an appropriate way of upholding Clare Rolfe’s particular wish that all children should grow up and develop without prejudice and discrimination.
One way to reach many children we decided was to set up the Toy Library. With the funds donated and also with donations from Oxfam, UNICEF and charitable trusts, the first toys for the toy library were purchased. The Project received lots of publicity because of the connection with the Rolfes. The Early Childhood Project was one of the very few organisations that used the words “equalities”, multi-cultural, and childrens’ rights at the time.