San Mateo de Huanchor, Perú
At four-years-old, Jazmín Gonzalez may or may not be a future track star—but she's training like one.
While there is no competition anywhere in her near future, Jazmín is working hard to be the best jumper in her class, because for this gregarious young girl each jump is an enormous step—just one year ago, Jazmín could hardly walk, never mind run and jump.
The difference came when her teachers began to use play as a means of education.
"Jazmín is always trying to improve her jumps, despite her young age," says Graciela Meza Povis, principal of Jazmín's primary school in San Mateo de Huanchor, Peru.
Born with a physical disability to her left knee that severely limited her mobility, Jazmín was often excluded from activities in the schoolyard. Without the opportunity to play with her classmates, the young girl became shy and withdrawn. Then in 2011, Right To Play began training teachers as Coaches in her school and play was brought from the schoolyard into the classroom.
"I have spoken with Jazmín's mother and we both agree that she has come a long way," says Jazmín's former educational assistant, Jenny Samaniego. "Her speech has improved and she does not stammer like before. She is also walking better now."
"Jazmín is one of the students in whom we have been able to observe significant improvement as a result of Right To Play," says Principal Meza Povis. "She now runs, jumps and laughs often. She has become more social and is much more confident."
Right To Play began operations in the small Andean town of San Mateo in 2010, with a focus on improving the rural community's inadequate education system. The Play To Learn program focuses on tackling poorly-designed and sparsely-attended early-childhood education programs, as well as improving teacher capacity – all to improve the lives of children in Peru.
It is the same approach Right To Play takes around the world—using the transformative power of play to educate and empower children facing adversity—and Jazmín is a perfect example of how small steps—and jumps—lead to big change.