Guatemala – May 9 2018

Helping children to get a good start in life

A young mother receives training to support early childhood development in her community.

Verónica, 28, lives in a small house with her three children and her husband in the community of Xatinap V in the municipal area of Santa Cruz del Quiché, Guatemala. She joined the SOS family strengthening programme when it was initiated in 2012.

“We lived with my parents-in-law back then,” recalls Verónica.

Since then, several things have changed in Verónica’s life. “Maybe we haven’t overcome the big things, but we have more knowledge, more encouragement. Before I was afraid to speak in public, I was very shy. Not anymore now. Thankfully, I also have my modest home now,” she says.

Her family has benefitted a lot from SOS family strengthening support, she repeats.

“Not so much in terms of food,” she says, “but in education and hygiene. In terms of self-esteem, cleanliness, with many things, and we have gotten better as a family.”

Together we her husband, Verónica has also participated in the so-called family training, a series of workshops for parents where they learn about a variety of topics related to child protection, child care and children’s rights.

Among the greatest learning experiences has been how to treat her children, says Verónica. “The truth is that here in the rural area it is difficult to handle our temper. Sometimes, we are very impulsive.”

Learning about how harmful it can be to hit children, for example, has been very helpful for her, says Verónica. She treats her children differently now.

Stepping up to promote early childhood development

Verónica is not only the president of the women’s committee in her community, she is also one of the women who is being trained to help families in the community to enhance the development of their children through early childhood stimulation. She will be leading activities aimed at improving their gross and fine motor skills, language skills as well as the social and emotional capabilities of children between the ages of 0 and 5.

“Verónica is involving herself on a volunteer basis,” says Diego Morales, SOS community worker in Santa Cruz del Quiché. “She doesn’t receive any salary and is doing this because she wants to participate and support her community.”

“I decided to become an early childhood development promoter because I like working with children,” adds Verónica. “I like to sing, do activities and go out and play with them. By doing this, I will learn a lot of things that I can teach the children and my own family too.”

Having participated in early childhood stimulation activities with her youngest daughter herself, she has seen the impact it can have on children.

Verónica has seen the benefits of early childhood development activities in her youngest daugther. Photo: Gerrit Reinmüller


“My little girl is already beginning to take her first steps. With my first child it wasn’t like that. So with my little one I have seen the difference. When we go out, she moves around and chats. She says ‘hello’, she says ‘thank you’. With my older children it wasn’t like that.”

One of her first goals will be to establish trust and affection with the children in the community, explains Verónica. Then she would like to focus on volunteering her time to help the children develop the skills that will prepare them to learn how to read and write.

“Our children here aren’t well prepared when it comes to reading and writing. My son is in 6th grade and he still has to improve a lot.”

Other challenges in the community revolve around ensuring adequate nutrition for the children and creating stronger unity in the community. She also hopes that more families will be able to benefit from SOS family strengthening support in the future.

For her own children, her greatest hope is that they will have a good education and that they will have a career.

SOS Children’s Villages Guatemala supports vulnerable families so that they can adequately care for and protect their children. Family strengthening support includes measures to help curb malnutrition in the communities, family development workshops, training community members to carry out early childhood development activities, access to literacy classes as well as educational activities to empower community leaders and foster communities’ organisational skills.

Top photo: Alejandra Kaiser

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