In July of 2013 Yaelle Stempfelet who is working on a Master's degree in International Education at the University of Massachusetts with a specialty in early childhood development was retained to evaluate our existing pilot project. Yaelle, who is tri-lingual (English, French and Spanish) spent five years as the director of a bi-lingual Montesorri pre-school in Antigua, Guatemala. As research for her Master's thesis Yaelle visited the pilot project in Quiche on a regular basis and evaluated the curriculum and also interviewed the mothers to gain feedback on the existing program.
Yaelle, who expected to have to develop the curriculum, was pleasantly surprised at the high quality of the work that Alba has done. In interviewing the mothers the recurring theme was "more, more, more." Some of the moms also had good suggestions for additions to the program and most emphasized the importance of the nutritional information. It was clear that the moms were very hungry for information on how to improve the lives and opportunities for their children.
With your help we will be able to add to Alba's program and expand it to four other libraries in our network.
In just a few weeks a young woman who is pursuing her Master's degree at the University of Massachusetts in international education with a focus on early childhood development will be headed to Guatemala where she is going to evaluate our existing program and do a proposal for expanding the program through the Riecken network of 64 libraries. Mothers are going to be interviewed and children tested in several communities to determine the effectiveness of the existing program and to help design an ongoing program. We already know that the mothers are eager to have nutritional information. Like mothers everywhere they would like to do what is best for their children but often do not have the necessary information. Often the mothers are illiterate which severely limits their access to nutritional information. We are very hopeful that you will continue to contribute to this very worthy project so that soon we might have thousands of children enrolled.
In early March a team of Rotarians from California will be visiting the pilot early childhood development project. The hope is to develop a large Rotary grant which will provide training for librarians in 64 Riecken Community Libraries in both Guatemala and Honduras. This is very exciting as it could provide real change in Central America by providing early literacy stimulation and nutritional information to, perhaps, thousands of toddlers giving them a much better chance to succeed as students.
A donor has provided the 2013 salary for the project director, Alba Estrada, but there are ongoing expenses to purchase new and replacement materials. In addition, the project provides healthy snacks (along with the nutritional information) four times a week. A recent presentation on the health benefits of vegetables was accompanied by a cucumber and tomato snack.
The hoped for Rotary grant will provide early childhood development training throughout the network of libraries. We continue to need your support to purchase the necessary educational materials. We thank you for your support thus far and hope that you will continue to follow our progress with the littlest and often neediest kids in rural Central America.
We are making a year-end push for this project to be able to expand it in 2013. It is a very successful pilot project that we hope, very soon, will get picked up by institutional donors so that we might offer it to many more Central American families. If you have any doubts about the importance of early childhood stimulation I hope that you will take the time to watch this TED talk video on YouTube. http://youtu.be/ozNo1tSARh8. At this writing Alba is conducting two completely full sessions each week. Due to the small size of her library she has to lock the doors to other would be library users for the duration of the early childhood sessions. People in Alba's community write and tell us that she is the "soul" of their little library and that the library is the soul of the community, that it is giving a community that suffered mightily during the 36-year civil war some hope for the future. Children are the future and the hope of this and every other community. We are very grateful for your donations to date and are very hopeful as 2012 comes to a close that you might give just a little bit more to ensure that this program continues and expands too. Muchas gracias.
Alba Estrada is the director of the program which takes place in the village library. Alba was born and raised in the indigenous community of Quiche which is not far from the famed Chichicastenango market for those of you who have been to Guatemala. Alba's family is not indigenous and she reports that she was only accepted by the indigenous population when she started working in the Riecken library. Quiche is an area where there was a lot of violence during Guatemala's 36-year civil war and the wounds are healing very slowly. If you haven't seen Alba talk about the early childhood program I would encourage you to click on the link below to watch our video. The mothers in the community were initially reluctant to participate in the early childhood program most likely because most of them are illiterate and lacking in self-esteem. Now the program is so over subscribed (and by demand including a lot of information on nutrition) that Alba is searching for funding for a second floor for her library. Currently, when the early childhood program is in session the little library has to be closed and all the furniture moved around. We also invite you to click on the interview link and listen to a 2007 interview with the founder of the Riecken network, Allen Andersson. Please help us to report to Alba that we have full funding for her project. Muchas gracias.
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