The helping HIPPY

It’s not a drop in. The site works very hard with the family to establish a routine because we want the family to establish a routine for learning.

Wazi Dlamini-Kapenda, director of Multicultural Programs at the Mothers Matter Centre

The HIPPY program works with mothers and their children to help mothers gain the confidence to teach their children, and for children to prepare for school.

All parents want the best for their children, and all children can learn, they just need the opportunity to do so,” says Wazi Dlamini-Kapenda, director of Multicultural Programs at the Mothers Matter Centre, a not-for profit charity serving low income and isolated families through programs like HIPPY (Home Instruction Program for Parents of Preschool Youngsters).

“The HIPPY program is important because it really recognizes the parent as the first and best educator of the child,” says Dlamini-Kapenda.

The HIPPY Program

Wazi Dlamini-Kapenda, Director of Multicultural Programs at the Mothers Matter Centre. | Photo by Emmah Kapenda

HIPPY operates 30 weeks a year, concurrent with the school schedule and works with the child from about the age of three to when they’re five years old.

“We realized we’re really working with moms when we’re going into the homes. The mothers are social change agents within the home and community,” says Dlamini-Kapenda.

The program consists of weekly home visits and monthly group meetings by a trained home visitor, a mother who has graduated from the HIPPY program.

“It’s not a drop in. The site works very hard with the family to establish a routine because we want the family to establish a routine for learning,” says Dlamini-Kapenda.

The home visitor teaches learning strategies to the mother, and in turn the mother implements those strategies to teach their child.

“The activities are age appropriate and fun, and in the meantime the child is developing everything they need to enter school ready to learn,” says Dlamini-Kapenda.

Challenges of HIPPY

The cost of funding is a challenge says Dlamini-Kapenda.

“We try to ensure that we recruit families that are in the most need of the program: isolated, low literacy, low income families,” says Dlamini-Kapenda.“It’s not a cheap program; we’re there for three years.”

When working with families, trust is also an issue in the beginning, but quickly dissipates says Dlamini-Kapenda.

“It’s a big deal to let someone into your home. People are vulnerable,” she says. “We work with new immigrants and some of them come from countries where there is a lot of distrust between the government and the people. Knowing we’re funded by the government is concerning to them. “

Dlamini-Kapenda says they have to establish trust and a relationship with the family. She is grateful that she is a part of giving everyone access to eduation.

A simple girl from Swaziland

Born and raised in Swaziland, now known as Kingdom of eSwatini, Dlamini-Kapenda’s parents stressed the importance of education to their children.

“I was just a simple girl from my small village in the south of Swaziland, with a father that always told us we could be anything that we want,” says Dlamini-Kapenda.

After obtaining her masters degree in Public Health, Dlamini-Kapenda became the first epidemiologist in the country. Her focus was on HIV/AIDS.

“HIV/AIDS, was just starting to come up in the late 80s and I wanted to be part of that movement to make a difference to eradicate this disease,” says Dlamini-Kapenda.

After getting married, her husband, originally from Congo, moved to Canada and Dlamni-Kapenda made the move as well.

“It was one of the hardest decisions I had to make,” she says.

Dlamni-Kapenda, became involved with HIPPY in 1999, as the program’s first coordinator. Since then she has been promoted to manager and most recently to director. Her role entails monitoring sites, providing training to house visitors, identifying funding and building partnerships between families and the program.

“For me, being raised by a father that stressed the importance of education and now being involved in this program, in which I am supporting in my own way, to help families realize the importance of educating their children is huge for me,” says Dlamni-Kapenda.

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