The Bamboo Project on Child Resilience

An international learning initiative to understand resilience in children exposed to sexual abuse and sexual exploitation and its implications for service responses.


Following consultations with partners and experts in the field, we recognised the need to understand more about practice and approaches that claimed to integrate ideas about resilience. While a great deal has been written on the subject of resilience, much of this work failed to take explicit account of the realities and experience of children and families living in the most difficult environments in low- and middle-income countries, including those in which the experience or risks of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation were especially high. Our effort to address some of these gaps in knowledge is the Bamboo Project.

What is the Bamboo Project?

The Bamboo Project is a multi-country learning initiative that aims to stimulate and support new thinking and new approaches to policy and practice, that responds not only to the needs of the children and families, but builds on their own experience and knowledge. This involves learning more about how resilience informed programming impacts children and communities, and if and how it contributes to better outcomes. An essential first step to defining what those new approaches might be was listening to and learning from children, their families and communities, and service providers operating in those environments, to understand what individual, social, cultural and other factors, have been, or could be, sources of strength, support, survival and recovery.

The project is designed in two phases in each of the three research locations chosen. The learning question to be explored during this first phase was: “What may be learned from the life experience of children and adults, families and communities, and from programme practice, that contributes to an understanding of resilience in prevention of and recovery from child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation”.  The second phase is the translation of these findings into practical interventions that will test the hypothesis that these interventions may result in more relevant, reality-based services and approaches and contribute to better outcomes for children.

Click here to watch an interview with the international steering committee of the Bamboo Project.

Defining resilience

While there is no absolute definition of resilience within the Bamboo project, some characteristics of a definition have been agreed:
◦Resilience encompasses growth as well as resistance and coping in the face of adversity
◦It is a long-term process, or a life path
◦It may need adversity to develop. Hence the phrase “in the face of adversity” rather than “in spite of adversity”
◦A resilient child copes with adversity better than he or she should
◦Resilience should be seen as a process in interaction with the environment, not an inherent quality in the child
◦It needs more than positive qualities or resources – actively using the resources is required
◦It may be seen in individuals or in the group environment
◦It is never absolute, but varies with circumstances, with time, and from person to person

Research approach

The research took place in Ethiopia, Bulgaria and Nepal. While the environments are very diverse, the children who participated in the research in each location had experienced a number of similar difficulties and threats to their well-being.

In each site, a sample of up to one hundred children and young people were given the opportunity to talk about their lives, using qualitative research methodologies. Additional interviews with family members, community leaders and practitioners, were also undertaken. The focus of the interviews with children was exploring their strengths and sources of support; what protected them, who and what helped them recover from bad experiences etc, rather than revisiting their experience of abuse or exploitation.

In each site, with partners and other stakeholders, these experiences will be translated into new ideas for practice, that will be implemented, monitored and evaluated during phase 2, to identify if and how they support better outcomes for children.


The project implementation began in Ethiopia in 2009, with a research team from the University of Addis Ababa leading the first phase of the work. Other stakeholders will be involved in developing and implementing the practice implications. In Bulgaria, the New Bulgaria University led the research with children. The second phase will again involve a wider group of actors. In Nepal, Children Unite, in association with CWISH, (Children – Women in Social Service and Human Rights), a Nepalese NGO, led the initial phase.

In addition to findings from each site, the project is designed to offer opportunities for cross-country reflection, to explore the similarities and differences between the findings from different contexts. An International Steering Committee was established during the development of the project, to advise Oak Foundation, to guide and support the process in each location, and, particularly, to support this cross project learning.

The International Steering Committee

The Bamboo Project has been supported by the International Steering Committee throughout the project:

•    Robbie Gilligan – Trinity College Dublin
•    Stefan Vanistendael – International Catholic Child Bureau
•    Elizabeth De Castro – University of the Philippines
•    Jane Warburton – Former Oak Fellow (until March 2014)
•    Shirley Fozzard – Consultant

Document Downloads:    

Download the following material to learn more about the Nepal research arm of the Bamboo Project:

Nepal Full Report (English)
Nepal Summary (English)

Download the following material to learn more about the Bulgarian research arm of the Bamboo Project:

Bulgaria Full Report (English)
Bulgaria Summary (English)
Bulgaria Summary (Bulgarian)
Bulgaria One-Page Summary (English)

Download the following material to learn more about the Ethiopian research arm of the Bamboo Project:

Ethiopia Full Report (English)
Ethiopia Summary (English)

Download the following material to learn more about Synthesis Report of the Bamboo Project:

Synthesis Full Report (English)
Synthesis Full Report (Bulgarian)

For those who would like a quick overview of the Bamboo Project, please see either the one or four page summary of the synthesis report.

Synthesis Report Four-Page Summary (English)
Synthesis Report One-Page Summary (English)


All of the work commissioned through the Bamboo project is expected to comply with the following key requirements:

  • To comply with the highest ethical standards in relation to undertaking research with children;
  • To uphold human and child rights principles; including of course children’s rights to participate;
  • To be action oriented - connecting research, learning and the development of effective practice and relevant policy.