Four-year-old Saumu doesn’t play much at home. Her parents are too busy working. So she loves when her sister Rehema, center, takes her to their local childhood development center in Tanga, Tanzania.
There, Saumu plays with other children, sharing homemade toys designed to stimulate minds and promote learning. A third of young children don’t develop to their full potential. Toys can help, but for parents who struggle to feed and clothe their families, toys may not be seen as a priority.
Catholic Relief Services (CRS) trains staff at centers like these to hold workshops for parents explaining the importance of play and teaching them how to create safe, age-appropriate toys using ordinary household items like socks, boxes or plastic bottles. While the parents learn, their children do too, playing with others.
The program reaches poor families in Tanzania, Kenya and Malawi. Often in these communities, children also struggle with serious health concerns, so the centers offer medical care and nutrition services.
Saumu, who was born with HIV, is currently recovering from malaria. When she visits her neighborhood center, she visits her doctor. Some days can be hard for Saumu. But her face brightens as she sings along with her friends.
See more photos of Saumu and other children in Tanzania here: Trash to Treasured—Creating Toys to Grow Healthy Kids I CRS.