Lets Be Ready

by Lets Be Ready Vetted since 2011 Site Visit Verified
First Day of School in Los Izotes
First Day of School in Los Izotes

I had only heard about this small community of fifty families, who lived fifteen minutes from Nora’s town of Santo Domingo Xenacoj. The prognosis was not good…contaminated water, open fires for cooking, and students who appeared extremely small for their age. I was braced for the worst.

 We traveled the back roads by private van to Xenacoj , where we stopped to see Nora’s center. She and the younger members of her family will live there and will house donors and visitors who want to visit the nearby “Let’s Be Ready” schools, and if they choose take Spanish classes. The house was much larger than I had imagined with a great deal of light and comfortably sized rooms for guests as well as a communal great room adjoining a kitchen. At his point, it lacks windows and the water hook up. Then the Bacajols will need to furnish it.

Now we circled around the mountainous road to Los Izotes. I was excited to see what progress Lidia had made with this high needs community in the two months she had been teaching. The terrain seemed very fertile growing a large variety of flowers for export and blackberries as I was later to discover. It was hard to imagine anyone being malnourished in this verdant mountain area.

 We arrived and climbed down a very steep, narrow path to a small turquoise house donated by one of the local residents. Lidia and the kids along with their mothers and one father greeted us warmly. We passed the garden, planted by the mothers, which was already growing beets, carrots, radishes, and a few vegetables I did not recognize. Large colorful signs designated each row. What a great way to learn how to read! How important to learn to grow your own variety of vegetables. Later I was to discover a Sawyer water filter and plans for a wood burning stove. Things were looking up.

As I entered the classroom Lidia was assembling the kids in a circle to begin their morning routine. All but one very small child entered in enthusiastically, naming off the students present and locating their names on the Word Wall. Attendance was followed by the weather, the calendar, and a welcoming song in which each child introduced herself to me and shook my hand. I was totally blown away at how much they had learned in such a short time. Lydia had done such an amazing job with kids who have mothers, most of whom have never attended school.

These shy but appreciative mothers provided a healthy bean sandwich and fresh banana for the snack along with a glass of atole.

After the break, the fun began with the educational materials I had brought. Lidia let the kids open the box and choose their favorite item. One 4 year- old girl was mesmerized by the books. Others were drawn to the puzzles of the alphabet, numbers, and human body. One of the youngest boys was running his fingers over the bugs on a numbers chart. Lidia was playing with an Afro puppet dressed in a red and white polka dot dress Fred and I were given in Cuba. I could see what fun she and the students could have with that.

Some of the kids were most excited about the soccer ball so we walked along a path to an open field and the students and their older siblings had a rollicking game of soccer.

Seeing these kids living in such challenging conditions, so happy and thriving, their parents involved and committed, and lead by an extraordinary teacher really made my heart sing! This garden of students is being watered and cultivated with a gentle hand that insures their growth and a promising start in life.

Mothers
Mothers' Garden
Mother in Los Izotes
Mother in Los Izotes
Facinated by Numbers
Facinated by Numbers
Getting an Early Start
Getting an Early Start
Better than Christmas
Better than Christmas
2014 teachers training
2014 teachers training

2014 Annual Report

Because of donor support in 2014, early childhood education was delivered to more than 300 children in 23 communities in Guatemala. Their generosity has sustained Let's Be Ready for 6 years now, and positioned us to expand in the most rural villages through the new program Magic Classroom.

Income and expense items of note.

We were short $ 3,093 due to increasing stipends by 5% each year and paying travel for teachers, while not asking for an increase in the in the basic donation amount of $1500 per teacher. Instead we have opted to ask for material donations.

I am still covering the administrative expenses @ $5,000

Some sponsors are giving partial scholarships to their teachers to go to college on the weekends.

Looking ahead to 2015, I solicited extra funds for materials and through some generous donations, it appears that there will be sufficient funds to balance the budget next year at about $50,000 with the number of teachers remaining about the same.

The Nutrition Program is fully funded for 2015, as it has been for the last 2 years, by grants from a Swiss Herrod Foundation and Feed the Dream. They get a separate accounting.

 

Establishment of our own Non Profit

This year we were granted nonprofit status for Let's Be Ready. Through a change in the tax law, new simplified application and reporting rules was created for small 501c3’s with donations of $50,000 or less. We are extremely grateful to Beth and Marlon Dearden of World Link  Partners for supporting us during our developing years.

Innovations for 2015

We have 7 major initiatives for 2015 which will carry over into 2016 as well.

These first three:

  1. We have hired Margarita, one of teachers who had been replaced by a government teacher in community nearby Antigua (hooray for the Government) and put her to work learning how to evaluate children entering and when they leave our classrooms, primarily for vocabulary skills. She is a great teacher and will also visit and coach the teachers in their classrooms.
  2. We are going to have more books in the classrooms and training to use them. Lucy is our developer of curriculum guides for the teachers and is the primary trainer. We will publish her guides for the 10 Star Books this year. Look for it on Amazon.
  3. Nora will be spending 7 months in the USA, immersed in English. This is significant for both Nora and the long range plan for having Guatemalans administer the program with less help from me. Nora agreed to have all of the classrooms and teachers functioning perfectly before she leaves in May. This means:
  • that new teachers are trained,
  • they are all sending emails to their sponsors,
  • they are tracking the success of their graduates,
  • they are using the books and Creative Curriculum,
  • Margarita is evaluating the kids and coaching the teachers to increase the verbal skills,
  • the mothers are all providing the food and cooking nutritious snacks,
  • visiting sponsors have a great visit to their classrooms,
  • Jose is providing leadership for the mothers to change the diets of their family and their diet in the first 1000 days of their babies lives.
  • and all other administrative details under control.

and these four more:

  1. There will be a volunteer from the USA for several months, Eric Schliemann, whose regular job it is to evaluate kids readiness for primary school. He has begun to accompany Margarita to visit the classrooms.
  2. We are going to expand the use the Global Giving web pages as our primary “go to” location for all information about us, including up to date reports. Although people can donate there, they charge a 15% fee. On the other hand, donors can get matching funds, at times up to $500, and the fee is waived. We will be using $2000 in matching funds from the December Microsoft Foundation Youth Spark Drive in 2014 to be applied in 2015.
  3. There is a great opportunity for raising funds in the future using a combination of Global Giving and the social media, which I know nothing about. I continue to look for someone who does and is willing to show us how.
  4. We are going to have 8-10 Promoters (i.e., not formally graduated teachers) using the Magical Classroom Program in the most rural areas in 2015. I have personally funded $10,000 of the $13,000 it has cost to develop this program over the past 3 years. A group of very talented Guatemalans who originally lead our "clowns in the park" program have written and developed the recorded curriculum, and Lucy (also a teacher displaced by the arrival of a Government teacher) develops the activities to go with them, consults on the curriculum, and trains the Promoters. I have hired Lola, a Mayan woman from the Lake to be the director to select, train and check up on the Promoters. We have one partner so far, Miracles in Action, who is sponsoring 4-5 Promoters in the rural Cuchamatanes mountains where they have built schools. Fundraising and reporting will be in a separate 501c3, Magical Classroom.

 

It is apparent that we have some ambitious goals for 2015. We want to continue to improve Let's Be Ready in curriculum development and teacher training. We are going to expand the Magic Classroom into the more rural areas, develop more recorded programming, activities, and translations. With your continued support, we remain committed to improving early childhood education in Guatemala. We thank all donors for being part of vision and the reality,

Fred Zambroski, Founder

                                      TEACHER TRAINING

This summer we were very fortunate to receive training from a group of Montessori teachers from Washington D.C. Laura Fleming and her colleagues, Yasmin, and Alison visited classrooms to determine the needs of the teachers to develop the training. The teachers were given fresh ideas, activities, and techniques using the educational materials in their current learning centers. The emphasis of the training was to use the centers to teach and reinforce basic concepts such as numbers, colors and shapes. The training also stressed the importance of effective daily planning and offered helpful strategies for the teachers.I am happy to say that I see teachers applying the teachings of the training in both planning and instruction.

                                     PARENT INVOLVEMENT

 I believe one of our main achievements this year is the new way we are including parents. We developed a program where parents were involved in setting goals and objectives for their children. Teachers shared various activities and methods with parents creating a team approach to insure student success.

                                         TEACHER REPORTS

 Teachers reported many successes in their individual programs. One area of success was using the body and the hands to develop vocabulary. They developed new approaches to counting, playing outdoors, dancing, which supported learning. Teachers used the block area to teach shapes, colors, sequencing, and patterns. Teachers saw the value of using circles rather than traditional lines. Meeting in small groups and daily circle sharing groups is a large departure from traditional public school in Guatemala.

                                             ACHIEVEMENTS

  1. We have provided early child education in 23 small rural communities to small rural communities, where there was no access.
  2. We have involved parents in supporting the individual needs of their children.
Students September at El Rosario 2014
Students September at El Rosario 2014

As the school year comes to a close, we are proud of what we have accomplished over the past 7 years, from Nora opening the first classroom in 2008.

This year we had 25 teachers teaching 25 sessions a day in 23 communities using our “traditional” model. These classrooms are part of our Pequenos pero Listos, Small but Ready, classroom program using graduated Guatemalan teachers, methods and materials similar to the head start program in the USA.

Every year these teachers have been given at least 2 weeks of additional training, in 2014 provided by 3 preschool teachers from a Montessori school in Washington DC.

Based on dated we have collected over the past 5 years, over 87%of the children who have entered into the first grade have been successful, not dropping out or having to repeat.

All of the mothers participated in a nutritional improvement program with grants providing fortified drinks and the mothers preparing fresh food for a meal, some of it from gardens we helped them start at their homes and the schools.

We started a new program this year called Aula Magica, the Magic Classroom, in more rural areas using informal classrooms (that is, a dry place where the kids can gather) sometimes without tables and chairs and just a few purchased materials to augment the use of recycled and natural materials from the community. We are giving recorded curriculum on mp3 players, and written guides and training to a literate person in the community to use. We are also beginning to translate from Spanish into the Mayan languages as well as broadcasting them over community radio stations. This method of preparing the kids for success when they arrive at the first grade can be spread faster and cheaper to more rural areas.

18 teachers used the materials in a trial program in 5 communities this year. We are making modifications and adding programs based on their feedback.

If you have any interest in partnering on the roll out of this program into 20 communities next year, let me know and I will give you a more formal presentation and budget. I again am paying for administration, but will need about $10,000 for direct stipend and materials expenses for 2015. More on this program at the Global giving site.

Aula Magica Guatemala: Preparing Kids to Learn

El Rosario boy with airplane October 2014
El Rosario boy with airplane October 2014
El rosario girl with picture October 2014
El rosario girl with picture October 2014

The programs have continued under the leadership of Guatemalans. 

Nora Tun Bacajol (our first teacher and now director) has moved 3 classrooms from urban to more rural communities, and has added a teacher and community as well for a total of 24 teachers leading 25 sessions a day.

Jhonathon Gomez, who I hired just before my episode is leading the implementation of the new Aula Magica program which is designed to be used in communities that do not as yet have trained teachers. Over 30 facilitators have been trained and are using the recorded curriculum this year already.


Jose Tun Bacajol is continuing to manage the nutrition program, training mothers to prepare fresh nutritional foods for the kids each day, starting school gardens, and distributing the fortified dry foods to supplement their menu.  He is not only impacting the preschool classroom, but the food available nearby the schools, and the family homes.

Atached pictures from the report  this past month from Oscar at Chuisac Verituc. Oscar has been teaching for 4 years. He has 12 kids in the morning and afternoon using a public building in the community. He has shown activities in several areas: Atitistic Expresion, Mathermatics, Dexterity for learning, Communication and Language, and Physical. There are some captions in Spanish, but the pictures tell the story.

Fred


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Organization Information

Lets Be Ready

Location: Longmont, CO - USA
Website: http:/​/​letsbeready.org
Project Leader:
Fred Zambroski
phoenix, Arizona United States

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