A Brief history of the Ilori Children’s Education Program

Way back in October 2008, WWD-F in Costa Rica created the Ilori Program specifically for at-risk children, most affected by HIV/AIDS, crime and poverty, by engineering workshops that awaken the children’s creativity through dance, art and music; offer exercises to improve their flexibility, motor coordination and equilibrium; as well as use creative visualizations to develop their concentration, attention and memory.

A critical component of these workshops was to convey different values such as respect; taking care of self, one another, all life forms, and things; sharing; co-operation; the value of friendship; etc, as well as to promote an awareness of ecology in its broadest sense, by encouraging respect and care for all living beings. We also provided the children with healthy meals, emphasizing the importance of good nutrition.

In 2009, WWD-F organized a total of 12 workshops consciously designed to raise awareness and develop friendly attitudes to nature and the environment.  These workshops were known as, “The earth is my home so I take care of it.”  To achieve our objective, we offered the children a series of participatory experiences which allowed them to reflect on the importance of caring for the environment by taking them to various national parks, ecological nurseries, aquariums, as well as visits to local rivers and mountains.   Through stories, puppets, theatre, talks, and games, they learned about ecology, recycling, basic care of animals and plants, and how and why to keep the environment clean.

In addition to our “The earth is my home so I take care of it” series, we celebrated International Children’s Day at the national amusement park, and ended the year with a special Christmas party, where the children played co-operative games, swam in a swimming pool and were given gifts.  A local company generously donated jumping castles, candy floss and ice cream.  This Christmas Party was such a success with both the children and the parents that it has quickly become an annual tradition (for photos of the 2010’s Christmas Party, visit here!)

The majority of these children are immigrants living, in the slums of Costa Rica, in tiny tin houses, with no green areas, unpaved streets and poor drainage. Most families do not have the financial resources for recreational and leisure activities.  Therefore, our workshops give the children the rare opportunity to positively interact with other children and adults; make contact with and enjoy nature; visit beautiful places which otherwise would not be accessible to them; learn all kinds of things; play; and introduce them to different music and arts.  We believe that through these activities the children have been able to develop social skills, practical living skills as well as self-confidence and self-awareness.  For more photos of past workshops, please visit our FaceBook page!

But we would rather you hear it from the children and mothers themselves:

Fabiola, 14 years old

My name is Fabiola and I live in Asseri, San Jose, Costa Rica with my 2 younger sisters and my mother.  I come to the Ilori workshops with my aunt, grandmother, sisters and cousins.  In the beginning I was not keen in attending the workshops as I am quite shy and found it difficult speak to people. Now it fills me with happiness to see all the children enjoying themselves, their smiles, their screams, even the ones that cry bring me joy.

I stopped being so quiet and now speak to all the people, and even though I am a teenager when I am with the children of Ilori I feel like a child of 7years again.  In the workshops they teach us respect, cooperation, to share, honesty, no fighting, never to give up, to care and love each other and many more things.  We also have a chance to play and enjoy ourselves.

What I really like about the Ilori workshops is the following:

They help us when we have a problem.

They teach us moral values

We get a chance to know beautiful places

They treat us with a lot of affection

I can only say thank you very much for everything they have taught me, my sisters and cousins.

Karla Payan, mother of 3 children: Bradley, Vanessa, and Illaney

Ilori workshops teach the children to share, to dialogue, they motivate the children to become independent and more humble, to respect and to care for each other and that we are all equal.  It is a great opportunity that they give us and I am very happy for what they do for us.  My kids become very excited when I tell them that we are going to a workshop with Ercy from Ilori.  God bless them for all they have done and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart.  I am so happy that we got the chance to go to so many places that we did not know.  Once again, from me and my kids thank you so much.  God bless!

Tamale Tuesday in La Carpio

Every week, Bien de Mujer hosts holistic, educational playshops as part of our Ilori Children’s Education program—which seeks to nurture the mind, heart, body, and spirit of each child living in La Carpio, the slums of San Jose, Costa Rica.  This past Tuesday, March 29, we had a full house of enthusiastic kids, as well as a group of hard-working women, from our Granos Solidarios women’s group, cooking up tamales to sell throughout the neighborhood.

Each Ilori playshop usually begins with songs and some yoga or dance, and this week, we continued to use Wise Heart Books as a tool to teach values to the kids.  They read “Captain Grimy”, “Manny the Mouse” and “Annie the Ant” together, followed by games and exercises to reinforce the lessons in the books.  If you visit the Bien de Mujer/ Women’s Wellbeing and Development Foundation FaceBook page , you will see some videos taken by a volunteer.

While the children were busy doing art work and playing games, the women of Granos Solidarios were busy making home-made tamales, to sell, and thus raise funds for the Granos Solidarios group business fund.  The Granos Solidarios are working to develop their current tamale-making micro-business into a larger, sustainable business; while at the same time, they are learning business skills 101, basic finance management, and how to work efficiently as a team.

The women of Granos Solidarios are so enthusiastic about this growing tamale business that the women had to be separated into two working groups, so each group alternates, each month.  To further support our children’s educational programs or the work of Granos Solidarios, please send us a donation at

Thank you again for your generosity of spirit!

Using Wise Heart Books to teach the children in La Carpio values

Wise Heart Books is a socially conscious company designed by educators, parents, and artists to create books and educational materials that nurture the whole child: body, mind and spirit.  Each book contains an important message for children, such as building a strong and healthy body or cultivating positive thoughts and habits, or developing love for oneself and the world around them.

In addition to inspiring and educating readers, every sale of a Wise Heart Book generates funding for our Ilori Children’s Educational Program in La Carpio.  Last week, we held a day-long playshop, using two Wise Heart Books from the Smart Values Series:  Annie the Ant and Manny the Mouse.

The Smart Values Series is a collection of five delightful stories that help children understand the positive and transformative nature of good values.  Each story describes how certain values – such as generosity, cleanliness, and honesty – can change us for the better.

About Annie the Ant:

Annie the Ant is having a hard time watching over her friends, Lazy and Hasty. Lazy never wants to work hard like the other ants in the colony, and Hasty is always getting into trouble because she always leaps before she thinks. When Annie and her friends are endangered by a cat, the two wayward ants have a chance to change themselves and save the day.

The kids read Annie the Ant together, followed by a facilitated group discussion about the values of hard work, patience, and cooperation.  In order to make sure the kids understood the message, they were asked to re-create the story as a drama and did some accompanying art work.

About Manny the Mouse:

After losing his tail to the baker’s cat, Manny the mouse quickly learns the consequences of stealing flour from the bakery. In this delightful and twisted tale of a tail, the mouse learns the importance of respecting what belongs to others.

The kids read Manny the Mouse together, followed by a facilitated group discussion about why stealing is wrong.  They played “pin the tail” on Manny the Mouse and filled out some coloring books of Manny and the other characters.

Other books in the Smart Values Series include:

Captain Grimy

The Magic Bucket

The Wise Woman of the Mountain

Buying Wise Heart Books is not just a long-lasting gift to your children or grand children, but a tangible way to support our Ilori Children’s Educational Programs in La Carpio: http://wiseheartbooks.com

Thank you again for all your support!

WWDF/Bien de Mujer and the Scouts host their first joint children’s workshop, FEB 12

The Women’s Wellbeing and Development Foundation/Bien de Mujer has joined forces with the Scouts of Costa Rica to produce a series of children’s character-building workshops as part of this year’s Ilori Education Program.   This past Saturday, February 12th, 136 kids and 38 mothers were bused (the buses, by the way, were a generous donation from Mr. Alvaro—Gracias!) from the neighborhoods of La Carpio and San Juan de Dios, all the way to Parque de la Paz.

The theme of this collaborative workshop was “Group Indentity”: “We are different.  We are special. We are part of a group.”  Psychological studies report that group identity, one’s ability to identify with a group of people, is critical to one’s self-image, self-esteem and individuality, and later, leads to more self-awareness, cooperation and compassion for others.   Therefore, the Scouts and WWDF/Bien de Mujer designed a day long workshop, outside in the park, on introducing and experiencing the value of group identity and cooperation.

Starting off with healthy snacks, songs and a story for everyone, the children were divided into groups, based on age, for a series of group activities, games, and exercises all in the context of the value of cooperation and working together in a group, as well as appreciating differences and celebrating similarities.   We will let the photos show you how much the children enjoyed these activities:

These activities lasted well past lunchtime, and then after lunch, the children spent the rest of the afternoon flying kites!  This is just one of the 6 planned joint workshops by WWDF/Bien de Mujer and the Scouts.  In July, all of the children in the Ilori Education program will be visiting the Scouts Base-Camp for a weekend of events and activities.

Can’t buy this at Wal-Mart! Special holiday discounts on Wise Heart Books for children

I cannot recall any of the holiday gifts I received when I was 2, 3, 4, or even 5 years old; however, I do vividly recall the books that were read to me over and over (and then later, the books I learned to read with), and I even remember their message. For example, “Green Eggs and Ham”, by Dr. Seuss, is one of my life mantra’s:  Try everything at least once (even cliff-diving in Hawaii, or moving to Africa when you are 18 years old!)  Or , what about a book as simple as “Goodnight Moon”?  And who can forget “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein, or Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are”?

I know you are all being flooded with holiday gift discounts, sales and such, but this year you have the opportunity to give a brand new, conscientious series of early children’s books, called Wise Heart Books.  People cannot buy these books at Borders, Target or Wal-Mart, so no worries about a gift faux-pas!

The Wise Heart Books’ “Smart Values Series” is a collection of five delightful stories that help children understand the positive and transformative nature of good values. Each story describes how certain values – such as generosity, cleanliness, and honesty – can change us for the better and just for the holidays:  you can get all five books for only $24.99.  Or you can buy them separately for only $6.99 each (but this does not include shipping and handling—which makes me question, what exactly do they mean by handling?!!!).

To take a peek for yourself of these artistic new books before they hit Borders, please visit: http://www.wiseheartbooks.com/

On top of your gift to your favorite niece or your colleague that just had a baby boy, the proceeds to go to the Women’s Well-Being and Development Foundation (http://www.wwd-f.org/index.html)  youth educational programs in La Carpio, the slums of San Jose, Costa Rica.   We are currently in the process of developing 3 slum houses into an eco-friendly community play, learn and community center.

And only until Christmas, are we offering this deal:

5 books for only $24.99 (this is 20% off the regular price!!!)

$6.99 a book

(does not include shipping and handling)

Free shipping for orders over $50

To order or for more information: http://www.wiseheartbooks.com/

by Kelly N Patterson