Early Childhood Literacy & Nutrition in Guatemala

by The Frances and Henry Riecken Foundation, Inc.
Early childhood training for librarians.
Early childhood training for librarians.

Very recently, under the very able leadership of our early dhildhood development expert, Alba Estrada, from Quiche, El Quiche, Guatemala conducted training sessions for our librarians in both Guatemala and Honduras.  The program is being expanded to five communities in Guatemala and ten in Honduras and, with your ongling support, we hope to expand the program to all 65 libraries.  There is no question that pre-literacy activities are crucial to later educational success and there is no question that the nutritional information that is disseminated to the familes is crucial in countries with very high rates of malnutrition.  When asked to report of their experiences after a number of years of attending our first pilot program in Quiche most of the mothers mention first the change in their children after they learned about the need for a varied diet including protein and vegetables. 

Young children should be lively and engaged in all the activities of an early childhood development program rather than listless and inattentive.  With your help we will be able to expand this program throughout the network of 65 communities that we currently serve.  Thank you again for your ongoing support. 

Activites of early childhood development
Activites of early childhood development
Alba showing how to introduce numbers/letters
Alba showing how to introduce numbers/letters
Yaelle Stempfelet evaluating pilot program
Yaelle Stempfelet evaluating pilot program

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.  

Roberto's mom has been coming since he was 3 mos.
This is our goal!
This is our goal!
Mom helping her kids to get started.
Mom helping her kids to get started.

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.

Handling shapes facilitates letter recognition
Handling shapes facilitates letter recognition


Alba & new supplies purchased with your donations
Alba & new supplies purchased with your donations

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.


Story hour for the little ones
Story hour for the little ones

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.



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Organization Information

The Frances and Henry Riecken Foundation, Inc.

Location: Princeton, NJ - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.riecken.org
Project Leader:
William Cartwright
Miami Springs, Florida United States
$2,843 raised of $17,500 goal
116 donations
$14,657 to go
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