ISMUGUA’s Day-Care Facilities
By Katherine Zavala, Thousand Currents’ Regional Director for Latin America and former Program Manager of Grassroots Alliances
Today I visited 2 day-care centers supported by ISMUGUA and one of its member organizations, FUNDAESPRO. Each day care facility is in high demand and caters to 30 children from 7am to 5pm.
The first one is located in Tierra Nueva, a community considered “high-risk” in terms of security and is suffering from a lack of access to potable water. Many of the single mothers in the community work in one of the maquiladoras in Guatemala City. The day care center has been essential for these mothers, as they can now leave the children in a safe space where they’ll receive education, learn about hygiene habits and also be given a balanced meal.
Without the day care center, the parents have few alternatives and fear that without proper care their children could be exposed to abuse and gang violence that is unfortunately prevalent in some of these marginalized urban areas.
The parents recognize the importance of the day care center and on their weekends they are helping to remodel the kitchen. They are currently replacing the wooden walls with solid cement block walls, which will protect the kitchen equipment from theft. The day care center itself was made of wooden walls, but thanks to funds sent by IDEX*, the walls are now built with cement blocks, which enhances safety and makes for better decoration inside the day care center.
The second day care center was located in Mezquital, a huge community in the marginalized areas of Guatemala City, near a popular bus station. The day care center is in front of a local market, making it nearly invisible among the crowds of people. I saw a man with a gun next to the entrance and I asked, “Does this place have its own bodyguard?”
“No, those are private bodyguards people hire when they want their car to be protected. It’s very common for cars to be stolen here.” An ISMUGUA staff member replied.
We entered a beautiful pink room, where all the children were running around screaming with their fireman hats on. The day care center in Mezquital used to be very small and dark, but now I entered a large, spacious, well-lit room. IDEX supported this expansion, which now includes an extra room, bathrooms and a secure patio space.
Both day care centers are full of decorations and interactive toy “corners” where children can have access to an educational playtime. FUNDAESPRO has developed a manual to run these day care centers, which includes material for pre-primary education. There used to be no materials for this age group until FUNDAESPRO published this manual. They have now submitted this to the Ministry of Education, which recognized its value, reprinted it, and has made it accessible nationwide.
FUNDAESPRO ensures that parents are involved in their children’s educational and development, and invite the parents to meet once a month to discuss different issues these children can face, like domestic violence. FUNDAESPRO has seen the positive changes in the parent’s attitudes. When they see the parents come to the first meeting, their usual comment is: “Feel free to hit my child, if s/he is behaving badly.” And FUNDAESPRO say, “No, that’s not the way to treat a child.” Over time, after the monthly meetings have run their course, the parents start getting more involved with the day care center and will help out, as the parents from Tierra Nueva did by spending their weekend time in remodeling the kitchen.
Once they’re old enough to go to primary school, FUNDAESPRO will follow-up with that child until the third grade. In almost all the cases, these students are doing great and achieve good grades.
Just leaving the day care centers, one can see the harsh realities these children face every day with the lack of security and the bad infrastructure of the community. I feel so grateful that people are on the lookout for these children, and are ensuring that they are getting a real chance to enjoy their childhood, as free as they can.
*Thousand Currents changed its name from IDEX in 2016