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Toolkit for Nurturing Spiritual Development of Children Gains Ground in Mexico

A significant stride in child development and family engagement has been achieved in Mexico with the successful implementation of the Toolkit for Nurturing the Spiritual Development of Children. This initiative, spearheaded by the Franciscan Sisters and World Vision Mexico, has positively impacted over 800 parents and caregivers and more than 1,000 children from July 2023 to July 2024.

The Toolkit has been implemented in various settings across four Mexican states: Guanajuato, Michoacan, Puebla, and Veracruz, including schools, an orphanage, and community parishes. Both organizations reported high levels of participant engagement, showcasing a promising start to this comprehensive program.

Training and Implementation

Following the Training of Trainers workshop in June 2023, several Facilitator Training Workshops were held to cascade the program. Taking place from August to October 2023, these workshops prepared organizational staff, faith actors, and religious leaders with the necessary knowledge and skills to carry out workshops with parents and caregivers. The training emphasized the importance of spiritual development for children’s holistic growth and well-being, and how this can protect children from violence in their early years.

As part of these workshops, facilitators also developed action plans to adapt the Toolkit to local contexts. An additional request from World Vision’s trainers led to the creation of simplified materials to accommodate parents and caregivers with lower literacy levels.

High Engagement and Positive Feedback

The Franciscan Sisters integrated the Toolkit into their “Escuela para Padres” (Parents’ school), conducting sessions in four schools and an orphanage. This effort involved 20 trained facilitators working with 200 parents and caregivers and reaching 400 children.

The sessions, held bi-weekly and monthly, have witnessed high levels of participation and enthusiasm. One of the most significant outcomes for parents and caregivers is their newfound recognition of spirituality beyond religion. Additionally, the workshops have been instrumental in helping them reduce the use of violence in raising their children.

“The Toolkit is practical and easy to adapt, helping to employ new strategies for parenting and education,” noted one of the facilitators. Parents have expressed gratitude for the insights gained, especially regarding their own childhood behaviors and how these influence their parenting styles.

Diana, a mother who participated in the program, shared, “This has helped me a lot to have a better connection with my children, to understand them, and to understand myself. I now try to be a better person so that I can be a better mother.” “The workshops helped me tremendously in many ways. For example, I am no longer as harsh with my daughter; I try to be more empathetic towards her, to listen to her, to spend more time with her, to understand her, and not to be so explosive or bossy,” said another participant.

World Vision Mexico also integrated the Toolkit into their existing work with religious communities. They trained 90 faith actors working in rural communities as facilitators. These facilitators, primarily catechists, have been conducting sessions in six parishes, engaging 600 parents and caregivers with a 98% attendance rate.

Facilitators from World Vision reported a high level of enthusiasm and engagement from the parents and caregivers, despite location and language barriers. These parishes are hard to reach and often spread far from one another, with some parents and caregivers traveling by foot to the sessions. Additionally, many participants are from Nahuatl indigenous communities, most with lower levels of Spanish as this isn’t their native language. Despite these challenging circumstances, there has been a higher number of participants than predicted, with some sessions attracting up to 60 individuals.

One notable outcome of this group has been the active participation of fathers, which is usually rare in such programs. “My children have noticed the difference in how we treated them before the workshops and now that we are participating in the workshops,” stated a father from Veracruz, illustrating the impact of the program on his family. “Before, I used to get angry when the girls didn’t do something, and now I understand them more. I have more patience with them, I understand that they miss their mom, and I must fill that role,” added a single father of tween girls.

Impact and Future Plans

Both organizations have seen the Toolkit’s positive impact firsthand. The Franciscan Sisters have noted that the Toolkit complements their existing work and has enriched their parenting programs. The Sisters hope to scale up implementation to the other thirteen schools they operate after this pilot phase.

Similarly, World Vision Mexico’s facilitators reported that the Toolkit has helped parents and caregivers in rural parishes strengthen their spirituality and better understand their roles in nurturing their children’s development.

The successful implementation of the Toolkit for Nurturing the Spiritual Development of Children in Mexico was made possible with the support of Porticus. This initiative signifies a robust approach to supporting diverse families and communities. The engagement levels and positive feedback from both parents and facilitators underline the effectiveness and necessity of such programs. As the initiative continues to evolve, it holds the promise of strengthening parenting skills and supporting children’s holistic development and well-being.

*Photography credits go to Franciscan Sisters and World Vision Mexico.

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