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Fun for today, educational for tomorrow

The pavement stopped on the outskirts of a small village tucked into a crevice of Guatemala`s mountainous countryside. We walked the rest of the three kilometres up a steady incline, passing by houses made of scrap metal amid small plots of land. We came to an opening in a field of corn. As we descended toward a small building, I could hear the familiar sound of children`s laughter erupting from inside.

I walked into a home that is opened up to ChildFund Guatemala`s local partner organisation each week for two hours to host a community-based early childhood education centre.

When we arrived the children were already in the middle of a game. Divided into two competing lines, the children were each to catch a ball gently tossed by a volunteer and then place it into a basket. The staff from our local partner organisation cheered them on, and other volunteer mothers helped the younger ones.

This race, filled with laughter and balls flying in all directions, had a purpose beyond the noisy fun. The game is also designed to improve the children`s hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills.

The staff and volunteers then led the children to a large mirror propped up by the edge of the play yard. The children initially stared at themselves quizzically, trying to figure out who was in the reflection, most had seen only small hand mirrors before. Within seconds, they were posing with their friends, and their confidence grew. This exercise is to improve and self-recognition and motor control.

From there, the children gathered in a circle and echoed a poem identifying the parts of the body: “cabezahombroscinturarodillaspies” (head, shoulders, waist, knees and feet). They danced around to the rhythm of the poem, giggling all the while. In this village, most of the children speak K`iche`, so this is helping them to learn Spanish in preparation for school.

Our visit ended just as the children were settling into small groups to colour, paint, draw and write to their sponsors. This activity brought about the most smiles of the day.

It all seemed like child`s play. And it was fun for today, but educational for tomorrow!

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