The ability to communicate to an institutional audience while maintaining a creative edge is a skill I’ve worked to hone over the years. Thus, many of my assignments involve documenting grants commissioning clients have received from government institutions or charitable foundations as a visual presentation of the progress achieved. This award from the Lego Foundation was, quite literally, a lot more fun than usual to chronicle.

The Juega Conmigo (Come Play with Me), program implements child health, nutrition, early stimulation and protection programs for young children in Guatemala’s highlands, with a volunteer Guide Mother as the main entry point into the community. “The program strengthens the ability of parents to support their child’s development through of fun and games, taking play as the basis for the development of children’s abilities,” says ChildFund Guatemala Early Childhood Education Officer, Cristine Ajpacaja. “We work with children aged 0 to 4, seeking to change traditional parenting practices. Where parents consider play as a waste of time, we teach them to, instead, harness play to further children’s development.”

Juan (8) is an enrolled child living in Huehuetenango Department, Guatemala. Here, he plays outside his house with a homemade toy truck.
Juega Conmigo participant Rafaela (41) walks with her daughter, Dallana (4) in their village in Totonicapan Department, Guatemala.
“It is so important to play with them and to love them,” says Rafaela. “I tell her, in a loving way ‘keep on playing, little girl’ and I cheer her up with love.”
A mother and her three children walk home from a “Juega Conmigo” group activity session led by a Guide Mother in Totonicapan Department, Guatemala.
Rojelia (9) plays ball with her sister at her home in Huehuetenango, Guatemala.
Catarina (10) plays with a hoola hoop given to her by ChildFund at her home in Huehuetenango Department, Guatemala.
Emeli (13 months) and her mother, Maria Elizabeth (23) attend a “Juega Conmigo” group activity session led by a Guide Mother in Totonicapan Department, Guatemala.
“I notice a difference, because when we were young our mothers didn’t teach us these things,” says Maria Elizabeth. “I was not educated in the same way, but there is change now. [Emeli] is learning good things at a very early age. She is learning and growing… What I want for my daughter as she grows is that she will be smarter and that she can do anything she tries to.”
Axel (4, L) and his sister, Ailyn (3, C) enjoy finger painting with their mother, Angelica (23) at a “Juega Conmigo” group activity session led by a Guide Mother in Totonicapan Department, Guatemala.
Juega Conmigo participant Ana Ajanel (21) holds her son, Lester (12 months) in the doorway of their home in Totonicapan Department, Guatemala.
“This was my first time to learn such new things. Letting children paint and sing and be creative is new to me. But now I know it’s important. I can start doing these things at home,” says Ana Angel, after participating in a group session led by a Guide Mother for the first time.
Guide Mother Julia Ramos (34, L) visits the home of Dallana (4) and her mother, Rafaela (41), to conduct a play and development activity in Totonicapan Department, Guatemala.
Guide Mother Julia Ramos (34, L) visits the home to of Rosa (3) and her mother Evelyn (19) to conduct play activities in Totonicapan Department, Guatemala.
“The way I see the ‘Come play with Me’ program,” says Guide Mother Julia Ramos, “is that it inspires children’s confidence – confidence to not be afraid, to be known in their community, to help them to think differently when they get to school, so they will not struggle or fail to adapt because they are smart and knowledgeable. We help them to open their minds and through this they can express themselves. ”
Juega Conmigo participant Zoila (25) reads to her daughter, Alexa (3) at their home in Totonicapan Department, Guatemala.
“She (Alexa) sings, imagines, plays and talks with her toys,” says Alexa’s mother Zoila. “She knows how to identify numbers or colors… It was not this way at the beginning. It’s true what some people say, that we don’t share enough time with them because we’re working all the time. Thanks to these trainings, we’ve learned a lot and they’ve been so important for us.”
Marleni (12 months) rests on his mother, Santos’ (36) back while attending a “Juega Conmigo” group activity session led by a Guide Mother in Totonicapan Department, Guatemala.
Rural mountain scenery in Totonicapan Department, Guatemala.

Mountain village scenery in rural Huehuetenango Department, Guatemala.