February 9, 2021
Reem Omar, Intern in the VHI Regional Office in Jordan
A typical 2-year-old can say about 50 words and speak in two- and three-word sentences. By age 3, their vocabulary increases to about 1,000 words, and they speak in three- and four-word sentences.* When unable to express their needs by words, children can become less confident, reduce their interactions with their surroundings, and begin to reject any changes to their environment.
This was the case for Tasneem, a four-year-old girl from a city 80 km north of the Jordan capital Amman called Al-Mafraq governorate. At the age her peers were forming sentences and learning how to interact verbally with their surroundings, Tasneem continued to speak only in one-word sentences due to having the speech delay.
Although fully aware of her surroundings, she limited her interactions with others, preferring to sit alone and observe rather than to join other children in play. Her family has tried to encourage her and support her to develop her speech and learn to interact with her environment, but with little outside support, they have been limited in their success.
Tasneem’s mother, however, always believed her daughter could overcome the speech obstacle and searched for resources to help support her development. She tried to register Tasneem for kindergarten, hoping the exposure to other children would help, but she was refused again and again; teachers thought that Tasneem would affect the other children and they did not have the resources to deal with her within a classroom. Finally, she heard about Hope Kindergarten. Although farther than the other kindergartens, she decided to give it a try, and it was then that everything started to change.
HOPE supporters showed up in incredible ways!
In 2013 and 2014 Vision Hope International (VHI) partnered with two local NGOs, Manshia Bani Hassan in al Mafraq and Branches of Mercy in al Karak, to implement two Hope Kindergartens in the north and south of Jordan. Their main goal is to help local and refugee children with education, training, and integration. The kindergartens are based on a Montessori-style curriculum to increase the interaction between Jordanian and Syrian children and thereby increase acceptance on both sides. Having heard about the program, Tasneem’s mother went to the kindergarten with the hope for a new start. The Kindergarten not only welcomed Tasneem to join their program, but they also made sure to provide her with specialized attention, love, and support.
At first, it was not easy to convince Tasneem to go to the kindergarten; she was hesitant to enter a new environment and refused to get on the bus. After much cajoling from her mother, however, she began to attend. Met with nothing but patience and care from the teachers, she soon started to look forward to her time at the center, excited even for the bus that would take her there each day.
Walk with hope even in your most challenging times…
In the Hope Kindergarten, Tasneem was treated normally, like all of the other children. The teachers involved her in many activities and games, encouraged her to be herself and express herself in her own way, she puts her in different situations: reading, doing a presentation, and sharing in groups… just one month, what Tasneem’s mother had dreamed of began to manifest: Tasneem started overcoming her speech impediment and pronouncing new words.
According to her mother, “The attention and encouragement that my girl received from the teachers in the Hope kindergarten made her more confident and comfortable in expressing herself.” Through her time at the center, her mother explains, “She started pronouncing words like her name, mama, water, teacher, and started to express her needs and interests. I knew she could do that; I always believed she could.”
Tasneem started at the kindergarten in September 2019, however, due to COVID-19, all education in Jordan has been remote, and Hope Kindergarten, unfortunately, had to be closed as well and all programs were shifted online. Her mother added, “I am sure that there will be a greater improvement if she was able to join the kindergarten again soon”. After 5 months of online classes, the Hope Kindergarten opened its doors again in July 2020 for all the children following governmental restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation. She can speak now in six to seven-word sentence and engage with other students.
Seeing the encouraging developments of Tasneem, her mother is hopeful for her daughter and very thankful for the passionate engagement of the teachers at the Hope Kindergarten.
At Vision Hope International, we are dedicated to the advancement of human flourishing by empowering individuals, including children, in the MENA Region. Bringing hope back to these people is one of the main foundations of our work.