Fabretto Children's Foundation

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Fabretto Children's Foundation: Acquiring and Applying Knowledge Through Play

NicaraguaAlexandria, United States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Fabretto supports early child development in at-risk rural Nicaraguan communities by training public preschool teachers to facilitate student learning through play and hands-on activities. Our train-the-trainer approach empowers teachers to spread knowledge in their school community.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In Nicaragua, poverty is overwhelming rural, with 80% of the extreme poor in rural communities. Children in these communities have no access to toys/resources to stimulate development, neither at home nor at public preschools. With few resources, 71% of preschool teachers have no formal training and tend to focus on rote learning. Children often enter primary school unprepared, leading to more dropouts and perpetuating the cycle of rural poverty.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Fabretto responds by supporting public preschools with teacher training and resources. Fabretto's training sessions guide teachers to use play to help students acquire, practice, and apply knowledge. Each teacher becomes an agent of change by replicating training for fellow teachers in his/her remote rural school. To facilitate implementation of the play-based methodology, we also provide key classroom resources and follow up with classroom visits. Through engaging activities, we’ve seen that children develop a strong base in language, literacy, numeracy, & life skills. In at-risk rural communities, excellent early education can truly change children’s lives by supporting cognitive, social & emotional development and keeping them in school.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Five-year-old Frendel lives in Las Sabanas, one of the poorest rural communities in all of Nicaragua. Before, Frendel and her classmates sat at desks and copied what their teacher wrote on the blackboard. Today, with Fabretto’s training and resources, Frendel’s teacher facilitates hands-on lessons that support child development. On a typical day, Frendel joins her class to sing songs, trace blocks and draw shapes, participate in counting games, and play on the mats. As a result, Frendel has developed into an outgoing, curious learner who will enter primary school next year prepared to continue learning and excelling. With education, Frendel and her classmates will be prepared to pull their rural communities out of poverty.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

In 2011, Fabretto began to train preschool teachers, and in 2013, Fabretto supported over 1,896 children in 77 preschools, most in the northern region of Nicaragua. So far this year, 178 teachers have attended training and are preparing to deliver sessions at their public schools and will reach over 700 additional teachers. Although our preschool teacher training is relatively new, Fabretto has implemented a train-the-trainer program at the primary level for many years with great success. During one 3-year teacher training period, the percentage of grade 1-3 students reading at or above grade level more than doubled (25% to 62%). In addition, our success has led the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education to adopt the Fabretto teacher training curriculum and methodology in its own nationwide programs.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Fabretto seeks to become a catalyst for change in education in Nicaragua. Our model demonstrates a cost-effective strategy for developing quality early education, an investment that can truly change a child's life forever. By implementing a quality training program and preschool curriculum, we hope to influence nationwide policy by encouraging replication and expansion of our approach.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Our replicable model builds human resources in education who become agents of change in their communities. In the pilot/initial stages of implementation, we have received funding from private family foundations and individual donors to develop teacher training programs. We need further funding to scale up our efforts, reach additional communities, and provide basic classroom resources to beneficiary classrooms.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The Nicaraguan Ministry of Education is a key partner in our efforts to support accessible, quality public preschool education in rural Nicaraguan communities. We have collaborated with the American Nicaraguan Foundation, USAID, Food for the Poor, and other nonprofit organizations in the past to implement education and nutrition projects. In these remote rural regions, most foreign aid goes to primary education or nutrition programs. We believe that our cost-effective, replicable training for preschool teachers fills an essential gap in education programs.

Founding Story

Fabretto carries on the work of Fr. Raphael Maria Fabretto, an Italian missionary who arrived in Nicaragua in 1948 and founded a network of children’s homes starting in 1953. After his death in 1990, Fr. Fabretto’s work continued with the formation of Fabretto Children’s Foundation, a legal 501(c)(3) non-profit. Today, the organization continues to empower underserved children and their families in Nicaragua to reach their full potential and improve their livelihoods through education and nutrition. Our five holistic programs develop knowledge and skills in teachers, parents, children, and youth to create sustainable positive change.


Fabretto’s team is comprised of executive leadership; administrative staff based in Managua; field staff; and small fundraising teams in the United States and Spain. An 11-member Board of Directors oversees and guides all of Fabretto Children’s Foundation’s activities. Overseeing this project is VP/Director of Programs Helena Edwards, MBA, who has 24 years of experience in rural development in Nicaragua.
About You
About You
First Name
Last Name
About Your Project
Organization Name
How long has your organization been operating?

Please select

Organization Country

, VA, Alexandria

Country where this project is creating social impact
What awards or honors has the project received?
Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Individuals, Foundations, NGOs.


Fabretto Children's Foundation - Charity Navigator 4-Star Charity 2013

Primary Target Age Group

1.5 - 3, 3 - 5.

Your role in Education


Please specify which of the following best applies:

I am applying on behalf of a particular program or initiative.

The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with (if applicable)

Public (tuition-free).

Intervention Focus

Curricular, Professional Development.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Equip Adults to Drive Change in Learning: Providing creative learning experiences for teachers, parents, working professions and others that empowers them to drive change in any part of the learning ecosystem.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

Trapped Between Competing Pressures: Educators face a lack of capacity to re-imagine and restructure educational settings.

What key learning outcomes does your work seek to improve?

Our project seeks to stimulate early child development, including cognitive, physical, and socio-emotional development. We seek for children to become confident learners who develop knowledge, skills, and independence.

Secondary Form
PROGRAM DESIGN CLARITY: We are hungry to know more about what exactly your model consists of. Please succinctly list a) what main activities are you doing with your beneficiaries, b) where you carry out the activities? c) how often? d) for how many hours? e) who delivers the services? and f) any other brief details

A-Our focus is practical and hands-on classes for students in five subject areas: language and communication, math, sensory learning, practical life lessons, culture.
B-Fabretto's 7 education centers and public schools throughout Nicaragua.
C-These lessons are integrated into the learning techniques teachers use with students on a daily basis.
D-Students in kindergarten will be playing to learn 3 hrs/week, and in elementary school 2 hrs/week.
E-Reinforcement teachers (at Fabretto centers) and Ministry of Education teachers prepare materials and teach these hands-on lessons.

INSPIRATION: What do you consider the most important trends or evidence that inspire you to believe the world is ready to Re-imagine Learning? Please elaborate.

We are inspired by the fact that parents are becoming more and more conscious of the role that they play in their child's education, and becoming more involved in the learning process; They understand that quality education is an on-going process that relies on the parents, teachers, students and the environment. New challenges in a modernizing society obligate us to change our education system in order to prepare students to respond to these demanding challenges efficiently and effectively. With parental support, we believe this is achievable.

LEARNING THROUGH PLAY: What does “learning through play” mean to you and why it is a must-have, instead of a nice to have?

Play has a lot to do with the direct contact and manipulation of materials. Hands-on activities stimulate learning and creativity because tactile learning increases retention. This means that through play and curiosity, students can begin to understand their world in a more significant way. Hands-on activities (play) allow students to understand and discriminate between textures, sizes, colors, and shapes. In addition, they cause students to be more alert, allow them to develop creativity and imagination, and facilitate learning how to work as part of a group.

SUSTAINABILITY: Please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating the percentage that comes from each source.

Based on our data from 2013, our funding can be broken down into the following categories:
US government grants-25%
Non-government grants-8%
Contributions from individuals and businesses-38%
In-kind contributions-22%
Merchandise sales-2%
Event ticket sales-4.6%
All other income-0.4%

MODEL: How does your mission relate to your business model (i.e. Non-profit, for-profit or hybrid)?

Fabretto promotes education and opportunity in Nicaragua but as a non-profit relies on partnerships with organizations such as the Ministry of Education. In this partnership, Fabretto as a non-profit has an advisory role for what programs could be used to increase the quality of education in Nicaraguan public schools, and then, as is the case with this program, acts as a bridge delivering the idea, training, materials, to public schools.

FUNDING PRIORITIES: If your organization were given $20K in unrestricted funding today, how would you use it? Why?

Funds would be appropriated to materials and teacher training. While many materials are recycled, we also use wood, which needs to be bought.
Training teachers in aquiring knowledge through play methodology and supplying them with materials is the key to the success and reach of this program.

PARTNERSHIPS: Tell us about your partnerships that enhance your approach.

The Nicaraguan Ministry of Education is a key partner. Because of their support, we have been able to train public school teachers and implement this methodology throughout the country, on a much larger scale than would be possible without their partnership. Now, public school teachers have access to training and materials such that aquiring and applying learning through play can be part of daily public school lessons in over 50 public schools.

COLLABORATIONS: Have you considered or initiated partnerships with any of the other Challenge Pacesetters? If so, please share.

We are open to sharing our approach with other organizations, specifically those working towards a similar mission as ours. Start-up organization or NGOs currently scaling may be able to benefit from information we have in areas in which we have had particular success. Feel free to contact us.

VISION: If you had unlimited funding, and you could fast forward 15 years to when your program has been able to achieve wild success - what will it have achieved?

Our program will have provided Nicaraguans in public schools access to quality and student-based education which respects individual learning styles motivating students to want to go to school.
Classrooms will have sufficient materials and be places where students have access to new technology.
Teachers and parents alike will be involved in the learning process.
Students will have access to creative recreational activities (eg. dance).

IMPACT - KEY METRICS: Please list the key data points that you would cite as evidence that you are able to achieve lasting learning outcomes. Please also share one data point for which you most hope to see better results over time

At Fabretto centers and in public schools, aquiring knowledge through play methodology reached 2,556 total preschool and primary school students last year, 1,236 of which were girls. In 2015 we hope to expand the program to reach a total of 3,054 students. While no formal impact report has been conducted, teachers already report a noticeable difference in the involvement and retention of information in their students.

IMPACT - REPORTING SAMPLE: Please attach any examples of your impact reporting. [optional]:
RESEARCH AND EVIDENCE: Please link or attach any research or evidence resource you are open to sharing more widely [optional]. Building research and evidence is a key aim of this initiative, and the resources you share may be chosen for listing in the Center for Education Innovations library:
SOURCE: If applicable - who created the research or evidence you are choosing to share? :
IMPACT - REACH: How many people did your project directly engage in programmatic activities in the last year?

500 to 1,000

STUDY: Has an external evaluation or study been conducted of your organization?


Other (please specify)
Number of Employees:


Number of Volunteers:


APPROACHES: Given the complexity of play, it is not surprising that there have been numerous research attempts to categorize the different types and approaches! Please indicate which of the following your project focuses on.

Physical Play, Play with Objects, Pretence/ Socio-Dramatic Play, Games with Rules, Creating a Supportive Socio-Emotional Environment, Providing a Range of Opportunities (providing the equipment and materials needed for various types of play), Educational Structuring (developing playful projects within educational contexts), Adults Participating (Ensuring adults are able to play alongside children), Other (please specify).

Other (please specify)

play with practical objects (eg. kitchen supplies)

AFFILIATION: Please specify if your organization has any existing affiliations with the LEGO Group.


Jim Salmons's picture

Hola Fabretto! :-) :-)

We are Jim Salmons of FactMiners.org and my partner/soulmate Timlynn Babitsky of The Softalk Apple Project. We participate equally in both projects, but have entered them one each under our Changemakers' user accounts.

Timlynn and I agree that Fabretto seems to be very much a "Kindred Spirit" project that would fit right in with what we are doing for our Pacesetters Round "action agenda"... that is, we're doing a self-help experiment in "bundled crowdfunding" on Kickstarter in September.

We're doing this as a self-organizing collaboration of #Play2Learn Pacesetters and you can find out more about it at www.DIYPlanetWalk.com.

Participation requirements are modest with each Partner project having the potential to achieve non-trivial funding if we are successful at generating a "network effect" with our collective and individual stories.

From what we have seen on your Changemakers project page, and on your website... especially that recent video of engaged playful/learning kids -- we know that Fabretto is just the organization to get Nicaraqua "Planet Walking". :-) :-)

Happy-Healthy Vibes from Cedar Rapids, Iowa USA,
--Jim & Timlynn--

Karen Kaun's picture

You're doing great work. Keep it up. Children's wonderful imaginations need to be nurtured. We can learn from them. Estás haciendo un gran trabajo. Maravillosa imaginación de los niños tienen que ser nutridas. Podemos aprender de ellos.

Bernhard Hofer's picture

Great project! Hope you can scale your train-the-trainer program to reach more and more pre-school children. Would love to hear more from your project. All the best!