Let's Be Ready

Our mission is to prepare at-risk Guatemalan children for the first-grade by establishing preschools (Centers for Stimulation, as they are sometimes called here) and training preschool and first-grade teachers. Our vision is to help break the cycle of poverty in Guatemala by reducing the high rate of drop-out and repetition of children in the first-grade. Our goal is to have none of our students fail the first grade.
Feb 28, 2014

Heidi and Las Parcelas Preschool

Heidi and the children singing a song
Heidi and the children singing a song

The following is a postcard from Lydia Sorensen, GlobalGiving's In-the-Field Representative in Guatemala, about her recent visit to Let's Be Ready.

About 45 minutes outside the lovely city of Antigua, in the municipality of Patzicia, is the small community of Las Parcelas. As one of the town elders himself told us, the town was created in the 1950s when the former landowners deeded four families the land in gratitude for their years of service. Today there are about 80 children ages five to sixteen in the town, and twelve lucky three and four year olds who attend the Las Parcelas Preschool started by Lets Be Ready. Before the preschool was created last year there was nothing for them in the area—they entered into first grade directly at the age of six. Most likely as a result of the failure to be prepared for school, an alarming number of Guatemalan children leave school after failing the first grade (30% of Central American children fail first grade). By introducing children to school in a fun atmosphere, Let’s be Ready is committed to getting more children through school. According to Nora Mehida Tun Bacajol (the director of Let’s Be Ready) they have been overwhelmingly successful: of the 335 children they have worked with, 300 have completed first grade and seven were even in the top of their class.

Here in Las Parcelas the preschool is run by energetic and cheerful Heidi, a young woman who graduated in 2012 from teaching school without a job. She walks thirty minutes each way in order to get to the preschool, but she says she loves her work. Heidi proudly shares a story about how recently she visited one of her former students who is currently in elementary school and discovered he had taught his mother (who was previously illiterate) how to write her name. One of the mothers tells us that having the preschool and Heidi has been a blessing, and now she has hope her two children will get to have a better future.

Dressed in their best, the children shyly show off what they have rehearsed in preparation for our visit: a song, a dance called “We are Proud of Guatemala”, and even a short poem about a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. Shortly however they break off, darting into the cozy classroom to play in the “kitchen corner”, page through a picture book in the “reading corner”, or build a tower in the “play corner”. They even include me—bringing me a delicious piece of plastic cake and a lapful of small toys. Leaving Las Parcelas in our van, some of the kids put down their toys to wave goodbye with their parents, and like their mothers I am filled with hope that they will succeed in school next year.

The letters corner and the library corner
The letters corner and the library corner
Saying "Hasta Luego" (see you later)!
Saying "Hasta Luego" (see you later)!
Feb 11, 2014

Update on the Program

Meeting at Radio station Double Via
Meeting at Radio station Double Via

Thanks to you, we are moving more rural every day.

As we have planned and done before, we are closing classrooms in the urban areas just as soon as the government supplies teachers to the community, and our enrolment declines from the 15 kids we expect. We are puting the furniture and supplies to better use in areas with more needs, still with trained teachers for preschool classrooms using the Creative Curriculum

We are also begining to go into even more rural areas this year by training litereate young people to teach with the Aula Magica (Magical Classroom) curriculum. These are not formally trained teachers, but with love in their hearts and a desire to teach children.

As soon as 8 teachers finish training in February, they will begin meeting with groups of children daily, using a curriculum that is recorded and broadcast over radio or mp3 player. The teachers lead the them in activities by following guides that were developed, tested in our classrooms, and taught to them by Lucy, one of our first teachers. Further, the teachers are reading preschool books to them based on the Po Pul Vuh, the creation stories of the Maya, published in Guatemala. They meet daily for 2 hours and the receive minimum wage.

We also completed a sucessful one week traiing session in January for all our existing classroom teachers and those "volunteers" who wanted to have classrooms in thier comunities this year. Six volunteers came and I have found positions for 4 of them. Three will be sponsored by people who had sponsored more urban schools that we closed and relocated materials and furniture to more rural areas, and the fourh is being sponsored by an new donor who visited Antigua from the USA.

We continue to need donations for teaching materials and books for the exixting classrooms and for Aula Magica for the 2014 school year. There are also other teachers wanting to open classrooms.

Thanks to those of you who have donated,

Teacher
Teacher's mathematics activity from 2014 Workshop
Teachers at the 2014 Training
Teachers at the 2014 Training
Jan 23, 2014

Update on the Program

The big news is that we are launching the first large-scale trial of the recorded curriculum in rural villages. We plan to have at least four facilitators and groups of 15 kids for 5 days a week for a month.  While raising the necessary funds to allow us to translate programs into native languages, we are training teachers to use the Spanish recordings we created last year. This initial large-scale trial in Spanish-speaking villages will be closely monitored and will provide precious experience for the next phase.

I did some research while in the States and found out that in comparative studies of kids' programs, parents liked Sesame Street but the preschool television series Blue’s Clues was more effective in terms of children’s learning. One major difference was repetition: Blue’s Clues repeated the same program several times a week. The children loved it and learned more. You know how kids love to read the same book. They learn by repetition and anticipation.

Based on these findings, we are going to repeat the programs and books for 5 days, while activities and the questions asked will change each day. The facilitators will adapt as they see what the kids are learning during the week.

I have hired our best preschool classroom teacher Lucy to create all of the activities and to train the facilitators to use them. The training will be in February and the trial in March.

Quirio (whose family recorded the programs in Spanish) has agreed to work on the weekends to push the translation of the programs into the Mayan languages this year. This has to be done face-to-face, which means visiting some pretty remote places by bus.

I will make up the difference to hire Lucy, the facilitators and Quirio (with his wife as a facilitator) from personal funds. In the meantime, we continue to reach out to new donors, with your help, and are also actively pursuing grant opportunities to enable us to complete the trial and expand into other areas.

Thanks to all of you who have helped so far. Your financial and moral support have been most encouraging to us. And special thanks to those who are helping to spread the word about the Aula Magica project.

Have you seen the videos on the Global Giving page? They will give you a more in-depth understanding of what we are doing.

Fred

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