Did you know that universal primary education is one of the Millienium Development Goals? The goal is for every child to have at least a primary education. Early childhood development including teaching sounds, vowels, shapes, numbers and creating a love for reading with story hours, all of which prepares children for success in school. In addition, in our program the parents also learn valuable nutritional information. Try to imagine what ignorance feels like. What if you could not read? How would you learn what was best for your children? Many of the mums in our program are in that situation. They simply do not know that their children need a balanced diet including protein to reach their potential.
We have just launched a second year of our pilot program in the Chiche, Guatemala Riecken library. Thanks go to the Reno Rotary Club (Nevada, USA) which has provided funding for a second year and because of their generosity we are able to double the number of sessions to meet the demand. As mentioned in previous reports other organizations are getting involved. The children are being weighed and measured and the parents are given a card to keep track of their child's progress. While the families were initially reluctant now there is great demand for giving children the best possible start. When this program is fully funded we plan to expand to other libraries. You can help us to accomplish that goal. We thank you in advance for your help.
Alba Estrada is the library director in Chiche, Guatemala. It is Alba who each week is running the pilot program for early childhood development and nutrition. With your help we can extend this program to many more of our 64 libraries in Central America. Please click on this link to watch Alba talk about her work with mothers and children in her community. Mothers who are unable to read are learning along with their children. They are learning that children need to have proper nutrition in order to learn. The word is spreading and each week more mothers (and even one father) are showing up to learn with their children. A nearby university student is coming to weigh the children. Each parent is given a card with which to chart their childrens' progress.
During this month one mother with two children has joined the group plus five more small children that are attending it on their own. The children have been very active and curious about the activities and games that are part of the pre-reading techniques. Thanks to your kind donations the children’s corner at the library has now more educational materials, games and small chairs and tables. The mothers are very enthusiastic to see their children start to pronounce the vowels, the letters and to recognize their shape. Some of these mothers don’t know how to read and write themselves. Also they are learning about hygiene practices to prepare food and their proper storage.
We have new important partners to make this program more efficient and measurable. They are a coordinator from the local health center who talked about nutrition in the last session and registered the weight and height of the attending children; and a student from the Rafael Landivar University who is evaluating the program and developing tools to measure the program’s impact in the children’s learning process.
As this program is becoming more popular in the town of Chiche, more mothers and children are joining it. We need your support to attend them all and make sure that they have a healthy head start in their education process and eventually become successful citizens.
This program, which began in June of this year, is carried out weekly every Thursday at 3PM for over an hour and a half. Approximately 15-20 mothers are now participating in each session (up from 4-5). One father is participating, which is considered an achievement in the context of Guatemala’s highly chauvinistic society. Participating children are between the age of 8 months to 5 years old. One child, 11 years old with special needs, has begun participating with his mother; another learned lesson for the library. Each session includes a small educational talk on one or more of the pre-literacy techniques, plus activities, games, even songs, and now hands-on preparation of nutritional, appropriate, affordable foods. In order to develop the nutritional component of the program, Riecken staff has researched multiple sources and is receiving hands-on training from the Institute for Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP). One of the biggest challenges for this library is one of space as other would be users have to be asked to come at another time. Conversations are being had with US Rotary Clubs and institutions to find funding for a second floor for this library.
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