Magical Classroom

by Lets Be Ready

Dear friends,

We have begun our school year of 2018! In January we had our first training, learning new techniques to develop in class with our kids. We also learned much more of fine and gross motor skills, and of course couldn’t leave out our learning corners made with recycled materials! We have 25 young facilitators trained and ready to work with our kids. The training was one week total shared with our 25 facilitators, all from different rural communities in Guatemala: 10 from Huehuetenango, 10 from Retalhuleu and 5 from Sololá.

Our facilitators are very enthusiastic to be able to develop their classes in each of their communities! Classes began in the first week of February. We are very happy to be able to begin the new school year with our supporters and partners: Miracles in Action, F. Tillotson G., The Mathile Institute, GoPhilanthropic, Starfish One by One and Friends: to all, we are so grateful for the huge support you give us and the confidence in our program!

Our best wishes for you all!

Lights, camera, action!
Lights, camera, action!

A few months ago we were fortunate enough to host our amazing friends at GoPhilanthropic during their visit to Guatemala as they explored the challenges of development work in country. Interested not just in helping securing additional for the work we do, GoPhil is unique in that they also care just as much about improving our overall organizational capacity. This last aspect has us especially excited as we aspire to someday become leaders in educational solutions in Guatemala and beyond and GoPhilanthropic has just the tools that we need to do so.

Please check out this amazing video made by GoPhil detailing their time in Guatemala and the important work that their local partners do (I’ll give you all a hint: we’re one of them!). For personal reference much of the rural scenery featured in the video was shot in our most rural program region, Chiantla, Huehetenango. We are currently hoping to add additional classrooms in this particular area and could support from readers (and now viewers) like you!


See our work in action!


Indications of Familial Chronic Malnutrition
Indications of Familial Chronic Malnutrition


......without developing a strong mothers group and a sustainable nutrition component that impacts the diet in the homes and provides access to a supplement that assures the children are getting sufficient micronutrients, vitamins and protein, even if the families are not yet able buy or cultivate the nutritious food they need. We will be able to measure the impact on reducing stunting, the most obvious sighn of malnutrition.


We will demonstrate for all of Guatemala that the combination early stimulation, academic preparation and elimination of malnutrition in the early years of life will ensure the success of children in primary school as well as thriving in their lives……and is sustainable and replicable in all rural areas of the country, even those without graduated teachers. And we will have the data to prove it.


Our mothers groups are the key to success. We are providing training to them about hygiene, signs of chronic malnutrition, a rainbow of colors in their diets, starting home and school gardens, and showing them the improvements that are occurring in their children through pictures, weight and height gains, and reduction in bouts of sickness over time. We are also teaching early childhood stimulation techniques and giving materials to use at home including books and recycled items to aid in learning numbers, letters and words.


The mothers are providing a nutritious snack each day to the children in the classroom and are being encouraged to do the same for the younger children at home. They also contribute one third of the cost of providing the nutritional supplement to children in the family. Each year they will contribute a greater share of the cost.


A new collaborator this year, Mathile Institute, is providing consulting service and the supplement, branded Chispuditios, to all of our school children. It is intended only for children 6 months to 6 years old. We are looking for other collaborators to subsidize the supplement for the younger children at home.

Can you help?

Measuring Height and weight
Measuring Height and weight

Developing Mind and Body: An Integrated Approach to Preparing Children

Heading into the 2017 school year both Magical Classroom and our legacy program, Let’s Be Ready, decided to take on a new challenge that extended beyond the classroom. In our pursuit to prepare young children for academic success in the first grade, we’ve come to the realization that a lot of a child’s development takes place outside of and often long before ever entering the classroom. This challenge that we’re taking on is chronic child malnutrition and our proposed solution is Chispuditos.

“Chispu-what? “ you may find yourself saying, but believe me, this is something you’re going to want to learn more about.

What is it?

Chispuditos, is both slang for bright, young children in Spanish and also the name of a special fortified atole (a porridge-style drink) created by our friends at The Mathile Institute to help address malnutrition and vitamin and mineral deficiencies that are so prevalent amongst Guatemalan children ages 0-6. We chose to integrate Chispuditos over other store-bought products into our daily programming due to its proven track record for success amongst children in Guatemala and its unique vitamin and mineral composition that gives it more micronutrients than other locally-available store-bought atoles.  


Why do we care about this? Simple: because when it comes to young children, nutrition goes hand-in-hand with cerebral development and therefore academic performance, and we want our children to thrive in the classroom and realize their full potential. Chispuditos has also proven to significantly improve the immune systems of the young children drinking it, making them far less susceptible to repeated bouts of illness that would keep them out of the classroom otherwise.

The importance of partnering

It would be near impossible to find an organization whose goals and ambitions are any more complementary to our own organizational priorities and strengths better than those of our friends at The Mathile Institute. The driving mission behind both Magical Classroom and Let’s Be Ready has been to prepare young children for success in the first grade with the guiding logic being that intervention delivered at a young age has the best shot at positively impacting and maximizing their cognitive development. The Mathile Institute has taken a similar approach with Chispuditos in recognizing that the most successful interventions in reversing the effects of malnutrition are those that impact kids as they are still in their formative years. Luckily for us our students represent that exact population, and our success as grassroots organizers in our partner communities means that we already have parents on our side as well, making it much easier to get families to buy-in to the importance of consuming Chispuditos according to instructions. Our programs also operate almost exclusively in rural communities where food security and a lack of socioeconomic mobility are very real issues, meaning that the children whom we will be serving are more at-risk to the effects of chronic malnutrition and stunted development. By working together our students can now be both mentally and physically prepared to thrive in the first grade and beyond in ways previously unimaginable.

How we’re doing it

One thing that we loved about Chispuditos was all of the data supporting how impactful it can be directed at a demographic very similar to ours. That was made possible by The Mathile Institute’s requirement that partnering organizations utilizing Chispuditos must collect data on each Chispudito beneficiary and we are no exception. Both programs began collecting baseline data on the height, weight, illness history, and in some cases hemoglobin levels for both our enrolled students and any additional younger siblings not yet attending our classes. The decision to include the younger siblings of our students was made in an effort to try to capture more children that are as close to the first 1,000  days of their lives as possible in the program so as to have an even greater impact on their physical and cognitive development down the road. Having as many of these younger siblings in our program is a personal priority for our program just as it is for Mathile, as these future students that have consumed Chispuditos per indications will someday become healthier, more active and intellectually curious students in our classrooms down the line.  

A look at the numbers

While the vast majority of the baseline data has already been collected in both programs, the final tallies are still coming in. Here’s a look at some of the numbers currently:


Let’s Be ReadyMagical ClassroomLBR/MC Combined


  • # of Communities evaluated


  • Total # of children measured (height, weight)


  • # of children < 2 yrs old measured


  • # of children < 3 years old


  • # of children < 4 years old


  • # of children w/ hemoglobin exam


  • # of mothers educated


We originally hoped to include greater number of younger siblings into our initial Chispuditos distribution than we’ve currently achieved, but we began this endeavor understanding that it would be a process and that working closely with mothers is key to this program’s success and ability to grow. In that same spirit we feel that we have taken a solid first step in that direction, making it a requirement that mothers take turns in preparing Chispuditos every day before class and requiring them to attend an informational session on malnutrition basics and the proper preparation and consumption of Chispuditos before the first distribution. Let’s Be Ready already has experience In organizing nutrition-centered workshops with mothers, and Magical Classroom has taken steps to effectively carry out similar activities once every month with the help of our locally-stationed Regional Coordinators who in addition to being great educators, are now on their way towards becoming knowledgeable on nutrition topics as well. These mothers will meet with our coordinators and will partake in culturally-appropriate and engaging activities to help inform, educate and hopefully convince them that both early childhood education and proper nutrition need to be a priority for their families and children.

We are still collecting the last batch of data from the field and will subsequently begin processing and interpreting the numbers so as to offer more insight on where our little ones stand in regards to height and weight (and hemoglobin levels for some) in the next few days.

Chispuditos in school and in the home

As part of our initial informational workshops with mothers prior to collecting this round of baseline data, we helped instruct mothers on the proper preparation and administration of Chispuditos. All children attending LBR and MC classes are asked to show up to school with an 8 oz. cup and one Quetzal per week to help in exchange for one cup of Chispuditos per day, Monday through Friday. Parents who are interested in receiving Chispuditos for their younger children not yet in the classroom have the option to purchase a month’s supply at the subsidized cost of 4 Q/ month. We plan on monitoring compliance in the homes through daily informal questioning and occasional follow-up visits when necessary. For the most part, we feel confident that our fun and engaging workshops will go a long way towards assuring that whatever Chispuditos purchased for use in the home goes to the intended beneficiary and not Grandpa or Aunt Silvia. So far mothers have seemed eager to learn and have done a great job retaining crucial information and instructions. An indicator of this enthusiasm is represented in the higher than expected amount of mothers who granted us consent to perform the hemoglobin test on their children. This test was always optional to parents and while some parents of certain communities weren’t necessarily on board with the idea at first, but after learning more about the sometimes invisible nature of chronic malnutrition and its effects, a great number of those same parents later came around to the idea. Unfortunately, we didn’t anticipate this happening at the time and didn’t have enough slides to perform the full amount of tests solicited. We’ll be ready for next year, though!

 Concluding remarks

Overall, the early returns from this new endeavor have been overwhelmingly positive by all indicators. Families and more particularly mothers, are excited that their children stand to benefit in new ways by attending our classes and we ourselves couldn’t be more thrilled by the potential impact that this latest improvement to our program can have both in the immediate and long-term. We hope to continue to improve our implementation model for this new program and of course will be keeping close attention as it unfolds. With the help of Mathile, we look forward to seeing more young children being given a chance to realize their full potential.


Dearest friends, 

I want to share with you that in the past few weeks we were in Retalhuleu, in the communities of San Andrés Villa SecaBacajiaanexo 1 and Pajales in San Felipe, and los Ángeles 

The reason for our visit was to take hemoglobin and anthropometric measurements of all of our children and their younger siblings ages 0 to 6. We do this work to be able to support our children with our nutrition program, and we want to know how their initial health is to be able to measure the impact we will have in their lives. We have completed the first measurements and we will wait to conduct them again in October, at which time we hope to find better results.  

 We found the majority of the children to have many health problems: malnourishment, under weight, eye infections, skin infections, children with parasites, and children whose teeth are in very poor condition. It’s very sad to see all of these issues in children so small, but it motivates us deeply to continue working with the hope that our program will make a significant change in them so their growth and development can be healthy and dignified.  

 The families are happy and grateful for the support that is offered, and now know that everything we do is only for the well-being of their children. All of the families that are in our program have very few resouces; their monthly incomes are minimal (approximately 700 Quetzales per month, for a family of 7 members) from cutting cane and working in the field, and with what little they have they buy necessities such as food and occasionally clothing.  

 We are proud of our families; we have groups of mothers organized to prepare chispuditos and the great support of our facilitators and local Community Coordinators to make our program successful.  

 We are working in conjunction with the Mathile Institute and their nutritional program Chispudito, and we are very grateful for them and their immense support and profesionalism 

 In this trip two volunteers from the United States accompanied us: Julie, who is a nurse, and Evy who is a professor. Many thanks, Julie and Evy, for the support! Here is their story: 

Volunteer Story: April 2017 

I was invited to be a part of Aula Mágica as I am a Registered Nurse and I enjoy volunteering where what we do makes a difference. Without going into detail about the project (I'd love to go into detail for anyone who is interested), I'd just like to share my 3 day experience. 

We got to Retalhuleau and parked our gear at our very primitive hotel before heading into the "boonies" to do our work. Over a 3 day period we served over 100 kids, ages 5 and below. We saw 6 of the Aula Magica classrooms. All were in spaces no larger than most American utility rooms and 5 of them had dirt floors with bricks and boards for seating, corrugated tin walls, if any walls at all, no blackboards, etc. But let me tell you, the walls in every single one were decorated with the work the kids are doing and the work is beautiful! There was art (yellow happened to be the color they were studying at the moment), there were pages of handwritten numbers and alphabet practice and collages of "family" and food, etc.[Text Wrapping Break]With the exception of size and a "real" classroom, Aula Magicia classrooms looked like any American classroom where it was obvious all the basics were being taught. The kids were enthusiastic and happy and thriving in the classroom. 

On the flip side, as a nurse, I saw skin sores (I wanted to be a MD often as I witnessed conditions that needed to be medically treated), pink eye, obvious malnutrition, etc. 

I'm very grateful to be a part of a program addressing the malnutrition as I believe many of the conditions I saw will clear up when the kids start taking the supplements our donations are providing. 

These kids are smart. They are already working hard to excel in school. They shouldn't be dropped between the cracks and forgotten just because they are in remote villages where nutritious food is hard to come by. 

The teachers are doing a fabulous job of teaching these kids. Their dedication is obvious. They are working hard to make a difference. 

It only cost $1.60 a month per child to give them a daily dose of the supplement but these moms (mostly single teen moms) cannot afford it. It is my hope that ALL of my friends will donate a minimum of $19.20 (a years worth of the supplement) each so that every child has a chance for better health which in turn leads to better performance in school. 


Julie, RN 



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Organization Information

Lets Be Ready

Location: Longmont, CO - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Fred Zambroski
Longmont, CO United States
$13,374 raised of $50,000 goal
116 donations
$36,626 to go
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