Every year, about one in three Guatemalan children fail first grade. Many of these students come from impoverished homes of parents with little education, most of whom are unable to provide their children with adequate stimulation—the lack of which delays their development and puts them at higher risk of failing once they do start school. This is especially true of San Rafael el Arado. But Lesbia Marroquin, San Rafael Site Coordinator, and her social work team are working to change that by visiting children and parents in their homes and bringing them puzzles, toys, and books. The goals of these visits are to get the children accustomed to being around people who are outside of their family, so the transition into the classroom is easier; to develop their motor skills, communication skills and problem-solving skills; to instill good behavior and habits; and to get them excited about their accomplishments.
It’s not always easy. Lesbia says that sometimes the kids don’t want to participate, they cry, or they are sick but she never gives up. She knows that if she’s persistent, the kids will warm up. One such student is a girl named Hermelinda. Lesbia says that when she began visiting Hermelinda at her home, she only wanted to be by her mother and she didn’t participate when Lesbia tried to do activities with her. Now, Hermelinda gets excited and applauds when she makes towers out of blocks or when she successfully completes a puzzle. She is receptive to Lesbia, warmly greeting her when she arrives and waving goodbye when she leaves. She also loves to look at picture books, as seen in this photo.
Lesbia states that the development of these skills takes a long time but that after seven years at San Rafael, she and her team can see small but important changes, just like Herminda’s accomplishments. “The willingness, enthusiasm, and faith that we put into each one of our activities will have an impact on the community.” We agree, Lesbia! We are proud of Hermelinda and all of the children who are discovering that learning is fun, and we’re very proud of the hard work carried out by the Common Hope staff in San Rafael. As Lesbia mentioned, we expect that these small changes will continue to lead to big successes, like Luis Angel Canel Vasquez, for example, who was the first Common Hope student to graduate from high school in San Rafael this past November. We look forward to celebrating many more San Rafael graduations, including young Hermelinda’s.