Monday, April 18, 2016
A Year in the Life of a Mayan Families Preschooler: Meet Zoila!
Written by Megan Furnivall, Education Program Coordinator
Every year in January all 3,000 of our sponsored students come into our offices to pick up their school supplies and shoes in preparation for the year ahead. Among these are our newest and youngest students - our preschoolers. Zoila, a preschooler from Tierra Linda, first came through our offices to pick up shoes and school supplies when she was just three years old.
Tierra Linda is a small agricultural village in the mountains above Panajachel. Many of the families there work in the fields, and don’t make enough to send their children to school.
“Receiving the shoes and school supplies was a great help to us,” said Doña Vicenta, Zoila’s mother. “I have 10 children, and with the money we make in the field, we can’t pay for everything. With sponsorship, Zoila went to preschool with everything she needed.”
Zoila receiving her school supplies for the year
Zoila was nervous on her first day of preschool. She didn’t speak any Spanish, just Kaqchikel, and she wasn’t used to being away from her mother. It wasn’t long, though, before she began to love singing, dancing, playing and learning along with the rest of her classmates.
Sponsorship also gives our preschool students a nutritious meal and a healthy snack each day. This gives them the nutrients and energy they need to learn and succeed in school.
“The first thing Zoila liked about preschool was the food,” said her mother. “She would come home every day and tell me what she ate – banana, pineapple, papaya. They even get chicken and beef. These are foods we can’t give her at home.”
In addition to this, all preschoolers receive a daily multivitamin which helps to supplement micronutrients and minerals otherwise scarce in the children’s daily diets.
Doña Vicenta was especially proud of Zoila for receiving excellent grades throughout her preschool career. “They learn so fast at that age. At home she sings songs to me in Spanish that she learned at preschool. She sings to her brothers and sisters too.”
Other students, however, do need a little more support. Sponsorship contributions allow us to have social workers on staff who regularly monitor our student’s grades. Students who need some extra help can get tutoring in our tutoring centers in San Jorge or Panajachel.
Zoila proudly displays her report card
Luckily, no one in Zoila’s family has had any medical issues. However, in 2015 almost 50% of the families in our Student Sponsorship Program had a medical problem in the family. These medical problems can impact a student’s ability to attend and excel in school. Sponsorship allows access to our doctor in the Mayan Families Charlie Gomez Medical Clinic for preschoolers and their families should they need it.
This past October, Zoila was the flag bearer at her preschool graduation. Sponsorship covers gown hire, paperwork and a celebratory lunch for preschool students and their families on this special day.
Zoila left preschool with a set of vital skills which prepare her for the rest of her academic career. She was able to learn Spanish, make new friends and begin her education in a safe and caring environment.
Now, Doña Vicenta is happy to report, “Zoila is doing very well in elementary school. She understands everything the teacher says in Spanish and does all of her homework. I don’t think she would if she didn’t learn in preschool.”
And what does Zoila think of elementary school?
“I like to paint and draw most, but none of my classes are difficult!” Zoila grins.
We still have many preschoolers just like Zoila who are still in need of sponsorship. Just $360/year can change a child’s life. Click here to help today.