At the beginning of the lockdown in Guatemala, due to the COVID- 19 pandemic, the staff of Juega Conmigo in Childfund faced a great challenge: How to reach families that have young children and live in remote rural communities? In a country considered within the lower connectivity cluster (lack of internet access) the solution had to be quick and reach the greatest possible number of people. The answer we were looking for was: the radio.
After conducting a quick survey, we confirmed that the radio is still an existing means of communication for most of the population where Childfund is present in the country. The radio is heard daily at home or during agricultural labor. Still, we didn’t want to go unnoticed just as information. This is when we decided to “pull out of the memory drawer” a paradoxically innovative format to send our message: “radio drama spots”.
From technical terminology to popular speech
We partnered with Isabel Gutiérrez de Bosch Foundation and Centro Prosame. The first step was for a group of professionals in diverse areas to gather in Guatemala to choose the thematic areas that should be included in the first five radio drama spots: early stimulation, childhood protection, and prevention of COVID -19. The main goal during the pandemic emergency was to keep families informed, by sending them crucial messages that could contribute to their comprehensive wellbeing and offer ideas for playful activities that parents and caregivers could do at home during the lockdown.
The series was called “Play and Learn Together as a Family”. While writing the show-scripts the following characters came to life:
- Mrs. Juana and Mr. Pedro, who have children between the ages of 6 months and 7 years old. They work knitting Mayan clothing, in agriculture and trading.
- Mrs. Lucy and Mr. Chepe, who have children between the ages of 8 months and 9 years old. They work as livestock raisers and in construction.
Additionally, with Childfund’s local partner’s support, the series was contextualized and translated to the different Mayan languages. It was also broadcasted through local and community radio stations.
Playful Parenting at home in Guatemala, despite COVID-19
After receiving positive feedback regarding the first five pilot radio spots, we decided to go beyond these five spots. With the LEGO Foundation´s support, we complemented our humanitarian response plan with a project called “Playful Parenting at home in Guatemala, despite COVID-19”. The program included the delivery of food packages, text and voice messages, storybooks, and an extension of the radio drama series!
We extended the content to 25 new spots, using the same radio format and considering the Reach Up and Learn program´s curriculum from the University of the West Indies of Jamaica. This new content includes the following thematic areas:
- Early childhood development
- Cognitive development
- Language development
- Motor skills development
- Social-emotional learning
New characters were also created, such as Rosa, a first-time mother who asks Mrs. Juana and Mrs. Lucy for advice to stimulate her newborn; and Mrs. Carmela, Lucy´s mom, a wise woman who tries to innovate while raising her grandsons and granddaughters.
Say yes to stories!
Previous results from Early Childhood Development projects from Childfund showed that only 1% of the families in the coverage area have children´s books at home. That is why, as part of the Playful Parenting project, we created a series called “Stories, colors and joy”, that consists of four books with five stories each, for children between zero and four years old. Additionally, we created a campaign called “Say yes to stories!” through social media and community and local radio stations, to promote these books, and most importantly to foster reading time between children and their caregivers.
Creating evidence, with a view on the future
Despite the pandemic situation and all the current limitations, it is still possible to develop systematic and coherent processes that favor early childhood development, beginning with the concept of playful learning that will then trigger affective relations amongst mothers, fathers, caregivers, and their children. Current limitations must not hinder all other alternatives that can be used to accomplish training and information that can lead to best practices.
Correct articulation in interventions and a sense of comprehensiveness produces a joint effect that can have a greater reach than the one obtained when separate actions are taken. An intervention in isolation does not have the same impact as the combination of multiple interventions. A joint drive that combines the different factors is created to improve the quality of the outcomes to be reached.
The World Bank and the Missouri State University, are supporting an impact evaluation that will assess the effectiveness of these radio spots and voice messages. This evaluation will measure the increase of playful parenting practices within the families participating in the project.
Without any doubt, and despite COVID-19, the Playful Parenting at Home experience has set a precedent for the way distance learning programs are made. We are still getting results and feedback, we have lessons learned and good practices that will be considered in the future while updating the project called “Juega Conmigo” in the post pandemic world. Our goal will always be to inform mothers, fathers and caregivers about the importance of the early years of their children.
What do you think of this program that uses the radio as the main channel? Leave us a message or follow us on Twitter: @BIDgente