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Debutots Goes to Zimbabwe
Jennifer David, Debutots franchisee for Finchley, Hampstead and Muswell Hill, took Debutots to Harare, Zimbabwe over the Christmas break.

Jen has written a guest blog for I CAN, talking about her amazing experience with the children. It is such a wonderful example of how the work of Debutots transcends language barriers and encourages communication, freedom of expression and mutual respect all as part of a fun filled and unique experience. 
Jennifer running a Debutots class in Zimbabwe
"Communication and Literacy is so important and children engage best when they are having fun! The value of play is so important: pretending, imagining and cooperating with others builds confidence and communication.

I am a franchisee of Debutots, one of I CAN’s supporters and a long running partner group to the Chatterbox Challenge. Debutots run unique interactive storytelling and dramatic play sessions for children aged 6 months to 7 years old.

The classes are brilliant for developing communication skills, increasing confidence, improving listening abilities and encouraging the use of imaginative play.

When I went on a family holiday over Christmas 2013 to Harare, Zimbabwe, I decided to take Debutots with me! I knew that English would be the children’s second language, but it didn’t worry me too much that they wouldn’t understand what I’d be doing with them.

Our sessions are so full of actions, expressions and imitation that there is so much comprehension from that alone, rather than the words used.

As communication is not solely focused on words I did not worry too much. The first session took place in Jewel Nursery. To say that the children lapped it up would be an understatement! The way they participated you’d think they’d been coming to Debutots for weeks. To see the joy on their faces was priceless.

After the success of the nursery class, I then set up a session in a nearby orphanage, St Marcellin Children’s Village. I was slightly more apprehensive about this session, as I wondered whether the children had ever experienced anything like our classes before I also had no idea what they attention would be like.

We decided to run the session outside as there was more space. I was left on my own with the group of 3 to 7 year olds, which was a bit daunting at first. I started to worry a bit more about them not understanding English so well, but they soon started joining in really well and following all the instructions. That is, once they’d finished laughing hysterically at me pretending to be the animals in our story! Their attention wasn’t as good as the children at the nursery, but they participated well and seemed to enjoy themselves very much.

I’m so pleased I took Debutots with me to Zimbabwe, I’d definitely do so again. It reinforced for me that children all over the world, from all different backgrounds, with totally contrasting life experiences, will never fail to glean boundless joy from stories, imagination and the freedom to express themselves.

It was great to be able to spread the I CAN message to another continent – it shows how we can access a range of different skills to help children even if we don’t all speak the same language.

Last week we supported I CAN’s mission to help more children communicate by hosting our Chatterbox Challenge: Sounds Like Fun with Humf sessions across the Debutots network. If you haven’t already, it is not too late to take part!

Through our work in schools, nurseries, Children’s Centres and also in local venues for parent and child classes, we aim to support the I CAN mission to help more children possess the communication skills they need to fulfill their potential."

You can read the full blog here...http://blog.ican.org.uk/2014/02/chatterbox-challenge-guest-blog-from-jennifer-david-debutots-my-zimbabwe-experience/