Hitting the Jackpot — Parental Involvment

By Mariela Rodriguez

Shoulder to Shoulder Assistant Director

We called it the “Kinder project.” Back in early 2018, as a new school year was beginning in Honduras, a parent approached to say that their child’s kindergarten teacher was interested in being part of our computer-assisted learning initiative. At the time, our education programs focused on grades 1-9. Nonetheless, we wanted to see for ourselves the leaders’ vision and sat down with them in May of 2018. At the end of a very good meeting our team offered to help fund, along with their parent association, half a television set to project English learning programs to an entire classroom of children. Our vision was for the kindergarten to pay us back and offer half-funding to another school in the future.

In September, we visited and checked-in on the project and were amazed at how the kids interacted with the program through the television screen —  singing songs in both English and Spanish and learning to pronounce the sound of the English letters (see video). Up until then, the parent association had been working hard to host all kinds of fundraising activities and in the process, they had discovered their own organizing potential. They had identified additional needs in their kindergarten:  fixing the electrical wiring which didn’t allow the lights and the TV to be on at the same time; painting their classroom to be more bright and welcoming; and installing fans to keep the classroom cool. All of these were needs that they knew would not be financially supported by their local and state government (which already struggles with providing textbooks for every student).  When the parents and teachers from the kinder expressed these needs and asked us for more time to pay us back we said, “Sure, you’re doing great work. Take some more time.” In exchange we asked them to host a meeting in the near future with other kindergarten teachers from other local towns to share their advances in the project.

In mid-November when the meeting took place, teachers from 5 different kindergartens – representing 4 towns were present. As I sat in the classroom that day I noticed something different and I slowly realized that all the needs the parents and teachers had identified had been fixed! The parents had not only fundraised to pay the project back, they had managed to keep the momentum going, seen the value in investing toward their kindergarten infrastructure, and by extension had invested in their children’s future.

The project meeting was a success, and a few teachers expressed interest in joining next school year! We as an organization are very thankful and impressed with the success of our Kinder project and seeing the enthusiasm and gratefulness amongst the parents and the teachers causes us to also be excited to expand next year. We saw that by giving community members power to raise money and by giving them time and autonomy to assess and decide what to use those funds for, was fruitful for both parties — because we’ve seen that finding community motivation, support and initiative is like hitting the jackpot.

Link to video: