HIPPY ventures into Asia
HIPPY, developed in 1969, is being used by some 20,000 families in various countries. (photo from HIPPY International)
For the first time ever, HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents and Preschool Youngsters) will be setting up offices in Southeast Asia.
HIPPY is an early learning program developed by researchers in 1969. It is already being used by 20,000 families in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Israel, Liberia, New Zealand and the United States.
As explained on the HIPPY Canada website, the program “delivers a curriculum based on the needs of children to become school-ready; recognizes role-play as the method of teaching the skills needed to implement the child-centred curriculum; and features a peer home visitor system that enables mothers, who may be hard to reach due to social isolation, poverty, language or other cultural issues, to feel comfortable participating in the program.”
“HIPPY has the same core program across the world. In each country, it is adapted to the cultural and linguistic context,” Miriam Westheimer, director of HIPPY International, told the Independent.
In addition to its Southeast Asia offices, other HIPPY news includes a major expansion in Argentina, progress with the program’s digitization and the development of a HIPPY app.
As well, HIPPY’s program in Liberia continues to grow and is now a part of the government’s early childhood strategic plan. The program was originally funded by Friends of Liberia, a group comprised of former Peace Corps volunteers. For the past three years, it has been funded through the Open Society Foundation and is now a ministry of education program.
In Korea and China, HIPPY will introduce a fee for the program, creating a revenue stream Westheimer hopes will allow for more programs in developing countries.
“Typically, once we start a pilot program in a new country, we can then attract policy-makers and funders to help sustain and grow the program,” she said. “What’s interesting is that the models in Korea and China are the first programs working with a higher-education parent population and the pilot project starting there sells the program to upper-middle-income families who can purchase it.”
It’s HIPPY’s first for-profit venture. Typically, the program is free-of-charge and relies on volunteers and community participation, but the agencies and organizations in Korea and China that approached HIPPY wanted to do this as an entrepreneurial project.
“We see it as an opportunity to raise some money so we can do this in countries where we haven’t been able to work yet, developing countries,” said Westheimer. “There are several African countries very interested and we don’t have the start-up [funds] to be able to start working there. We’re looking at this as a model for how we can benefit from the sale of the program, if it does indeed take off, to raise funds to support other new countries in the network.”
“We just started a pilot in Asia,” said Westheimer. “We started with 60 families. Now, we are working with 120 families. We hope to double or triple this next year, but it’s growing slowly. The idea is that it could become part of the ministry of education’s plan and we’re laying the groundwork for it to become a national program.
“We started the same way in Argentina. We started in a few shantytowns in Buenos Aires. It started in a Jewish community, through AMIA, the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, and then, several other groups, childcare centres, built in these shantytowns around Buenos Aires.
Because of its success, the federal government has given a grant to expand to six provinces. They started 100 families in each of the six provinces.”
The model is also working well in a few European countries, such as Austria and Germany, where they have something they call “HIPPY-inspired programs.” For these programs, they take the basic concept of working with parents in the home, with home visits or group meetings, but not using the HIPPY-developed curriculum.
“They have their own curriculum,” said Westheimer. “So, we have HIPPY-inspired programs in Finland, Sweden, Turkey and Holland. The Turkey program is … the most remotely connected to the HIPPY network. The other ones are really part of our international network.”
The program in Turkey has been running for about 30 years, she said. While it began as a small HIPPY program, it has evolved into an independent one with really no connection to HIPPY.
For more information about HIPPY Canada, visit hippycanada.ca or call its office in Vancouver at 604-676-8250.
Rebeca Kuropatwa is a Winnipeg freelance writer.