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El Jardín Infantil - The Children's Garden

Early Childhood Development through Stories and Playtime

sunny 74 °F

This morning I got up pretty early, 6:00 am to be exact. I confess that would be my normal time to get up back in Austin, but here I've been a tad more relaxed. The reason for my early rise was to go to Paxixil in the district of Tecpán near the ruins of Iximche to visit the library that a group of us from Seekers Church in Washington, DC, with friends from Texas, California, Colorado, and Iowa (you know who you are) helped to fund and build. The community library project is just another way that PAVA is moving with the times. PAVA has built a number of schools in the highlands and been involved in countless community development projects including building bridges, providing potable water, teaching sanitation and health, providing stoves, operating a bookmobile and providing scholarships. Education is at the core of PAVA's goals for helping the development of the highlands. While providing schools provides an important part of the education of the children it is not necessarily the community hub we had hoped it would be.

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PAVA hoped the schools it built would be available for use as community centers, however, there arose an unforeseen complication when the keys were handed over to the Ministry of Education. It seems the ministry's idea of stewardship of the building is to lock it up tight as soon as classes are let out for the day. This normally happens around noon, so the building sits empty the majority of the time. In coordination with the village Community Development Councils (COCODE) a plan has been devised to provide a structure that is the property of the COCODE, not the Ministry of Education. That structure is the Community Library. PAVA has been nursing these fledgling organizations in Paxixil, La Loma, and Panimachavac to name a few. The Executive Director and two employees have been working in these communities developing and implementing early childhood stimulation programs using stories and structured playtime. The Paxixil library was the first one built by PAVA and designed pro-bono by architect Axel Parades.

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Along the way to Paxixil we picked up Araceli in Chimaltenango who will be working at Paxixil today. The drive is pretty smooth once we get past Chimaltenango until we turn off the highway into the town of Tecpán. We slowly work our way through the town following the signs to the ruins of Iximche. A good part of the road to Iximche is unpaved, dusty and has a few more pot holes than I remember from last year. The community at Paxixil is relatively small, the first building we see is the school that we built a couple of years ago. We continue up the road to the library and although I've seen it in photos it is still surprising to see the structure. I take a moment to visit with the president of the COCODE and then set off to take a few photos. From the moment we mothers drop by to bring there pre-kindergarden children to "El Jardín Infantil" (the children's garden). It is not a garden of plants it is the name chosen for the program to work with pre-k children ages 3-5.

As mothers drop off their children at the library they may sign out a picture book for an even younger child at home. No one is left out. Araceli teaches the "promodores" (library assistants) how to create teaching moments in playtime. In this video you can see one of the girls teaching a preschool child how to count. The children attend from 9:30 - 11:30 am and the time is packed with activities. Eventually the library assistants will be able to take over the jardín and it will free up Araceli and the other PAVA employees to continue training other communities.

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I stayed long enough to listen to Araceli tell a children's story of a seed becoming a flower. She is so expressive in the story and engages the children in every aspect. Keeping these little ones engaged is no easy feat. But with Araceli telling the story you never know when she's going to ask you a question or do a hand movement. It is quite entertaining.

Posted by Aeren 15:06 Archived in Guatemala Tagged education pava libraries

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