Photo by Philip Laubner/CRS

CRS’ THRIVE early childhood development project provides 15,000 children under age 5 affected by HIV in Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania with a sustainable culture of care and support.

The project builds on CRS’ work with orphans and vulnerable children in these countries and includes key support to health, education and child protection programs.


Official name of project: THRIVE

Project years: 2012-2015

Countries: Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania

Value of project: $4.6 million (with matching funds, the total project value is $9.2 million)

Names of donors and partners: Conrad N. Hilton/donor

CRS and  the following partners:

Malawi: Dedza Diocese Catholic Health Commission, Zomba Diocese Catholic Health Commission, Lilongwe Diocese Catholic Health Commission

Tanzania: PASADIT, Diocese of Geita, Mwanza Outreach Care and Support Organization

Kenya: Mercy Orphans Support Group, Homa Hills Community Development Organization, Apostles of Jesus AIDS Ministry, Adventist Center for Care and Support


Early childhood development (ECD) refers to a child’s physical, cognitive, linguistic, social, and emotional development from before birth up to age 8.  This is a period of intense growth and change and requires interventions specifically tailored for distinct developmental stages.  Research and experience has shown that children who benefit from quality ECD services are healthier, more ready to learn, less likely to repeat grades or drop out of school, and – later in life – more likely to earn a greater income.

The THRIVE project aims to ensure that children -- who are, because of poverty and HIV, particularly at risk during this critical period – receive high quality services and support, and are therefore able to thrive and reach their full potential.


Poor early development can permanently limit learning, behavior, and physical and mental health. 

Orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) can face adverse care and nutritional challenges in the early years. This can affect the body’s stress response systems, brain structures and the cardiovascular and immune systems.

The benefits of early intervention include:

-reduced stunting, heart disease and mental illness.

-improved school attendance and achievement.

-social and gender equity.

-prospects for income generation in later life.

Early Childhood Development (ECD) interventions are among the most cost-effective for improving mental, physical, social and developmental outcomes of all children.  Even more importantly, ECD programming can “level the playing field” for disadvantaged children.

In all three targeted countries, CRS is trying to close the gap for children in at-risk situations. There are long-established interventions aimed at supporting vulnerable children affected by HIV and AIDS. But there are still large gaps in supporting positive parenting practices, in focusing on the holistic needs of children aged 0-2 as well as 3-5, and in ensuring that high quality services are available to highly-vulnerable children and their families.

CRS is building on its current OVC and ECD programming in Kenya, Malawi, and Tanzania. CRS further strengthens local partners and community-based organizations, and generates lessons learned and strong programmatic approaches. Success stories can be applied to other ECD programs throughout Africa and shared globally with others working to promote the well-being and optimal development of young, vulnerable children.


The project targets 15,000 children and includes three main program areas.

  • The direct provision of services (such as training to parents, caretakers, and community health workers; home visits; child-friendly spaces; and Child Health Days) addresses the critical factors for child development such as stable and responsive relationships, safe and stimulating physical environments, and proper health and nutrition.
  • Capacity-building of partners and community-based organizations addresses the gap that exists in these organizations’ ability to lead and expand ECD services for vulnerable children.
  • THRIVE also strives to improve knowledge and expertise across CRS and the ECD sector by active cross-country learning.

The project builds on previous work by CRS and its partners to address OVC needs. THRIVE looks at creative ways to bring ECD services to communities, parents and children. One way this is done is adding child-friendly spaces to health facilities.

THRIVE also conducts Child Health Days. These popular community events bring together service providers from different sectors to raise awareness, educate and provide necessary services. 



  • reached more than 1,200 trainers (community health workers) and 18,000 parents/guardians with positive parenting and other training on ECD.
  • enabled more than 86,000 home visits to OVCs and their families for counseling, monitoring and support.
  • established or improved 190 child-friendly spaces.
  • reached more than 24,000 children with ECD services of some kind.
  • undertaken ECD support service mapping in all project intervention areas.



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