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New generation benefits from mobile preschool

CCFC helps toddlers in rural Paraguay develop social and motor skills

By Rosanna Menchaca, CCFC communications manager, Paraguay

A song about an elephant sleeping may sound silly, but it’s engaging young minds in rural Ypane, Paraguay and beyond as part of the Travelling Little Carpet project.

The idea to engage preschoolers stemmed from the successful Travelling Backpack initiative Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC) launched to address developmental challenges in rural communities.

Early-childhood stimulation is a new concept in many Paraguayan homes, where families believe education starts in primary school. So, infants and toddlers in rural areas are often starved for activities that encourage brain stimulation and motor coordination. But that’s changing.

How the mobile education program works

Now, twice a week, a preschool teacher packs coloured paper, crayons, glue, clay, puzzles, abacuses and toys into a backpack and travels to rural areas to engage toddlers (up to the age of five) in their homes.

The eager students gather in groups of eight to 10 for approximately two hours to advance their social and motor skills. “It is part of a community process, which allows us to continue building child-centered development in a decentralized manner,” explains Diego Martínez, program manager at CCFC’s Paraguay office.

The community is a big part of the process. In fact, parents help with the activities and prepare snacks, while learning how to advance their children’s development. “Now more families are aware of the importance of early stimulation,” explains Eduarda Ibarra, a preschool teacher from the Ypane project. “It helps the children, families and the school community.”

Children and parents see growth

“There are a lot of changes in the children,” confirms Marilina Lezcano, a teacher of Divino Niño Jesús school, where the project operates in the district of Troche. “They behave better, and their psychomotor ability is improved.”

It’s providing a brighter future, as only 16 percent of children between the ages of zero and five receive primary care in Paraguay, according to UNICEF.

Jennifer can attest to its importance. “I learned to draw, the colours, to do puzzles, and when I started school it was easier,” says the seven-year-old who participated in Travelling Backpack activities when she was three.

Parents are seeing change, too. “By the time my son started school, he already knew how to draw, paint and write his name,” shares Virginia, a proud mother whose child participated in the Ypane project. “It was easier for him to adapt to the new environment [compared to the] children who didn’t receive early stimulation.”

Families and communities are joining to celebrate this positive change in the lives of more than 1,000 children, creating building blocks of development for a new generation.

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Christian Children’s Fund of Canada:

Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC) is a child-centred international development organization and a member of ChildFund Alliance. For more than 55 years, CCFC has worked with children, communities, donors and other partners — changing lives through improved health, education and clean water. CCFC works in 12 countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas, to support more than 700,000 children, youth and community members.