Flexibility is key with this vision of ours. Growing organically is a guiding principle.
When our first three families arrived with seven children under six (and with four of them in diapers), it quickly became clear that the majority of the mamas’ days were spent preparing food, cleaning clothes, comforting a crying child or children, changing and washing diapers.
Our vision for capacity building, vocational training, handicraft work, village involvement (planting, weeding, etc.) suddenly had major limitations because there was so little time available to the mamas.
I could see that the children suffered because of their mama’s busyness. They weren’t being played with, conversation was limited and reading aloud didn’t exist. Life is full and can get in the way of many things one aspires to do. I began to invite groups of 2 or 3 children up to our home to play and read with them as often as I could. That, of course, came with limitations as well. I had an NGO to run and as much as I love being with kids, my time is also very limited.
It was really clear to me that what we needed was a preschool. I put it forward at our board meetings. And we discussed it. A preschool was not in the immediate plans. I am sure many on-the-ground NGO leaders have encountered this. I felt strongly that this was a strong case for flexibility and that the urgency of the situation had bumped it up the list of priorities. I became a preschool evangelist.
Long story, short. I applied for a couple of grants and crossed my fingers. At our annual Grand Fiesta, we asked for support. The response was overwhelming! I sat on the sidelines weeping for joy. Weeping because so many, truly got the importance of education for children. Weeping because I knew how much our mamas and children would love this type of programming.
Two grants for the preschool were approved; one from HSABC (Health Sciences Association of BC) and one from the Brown Family Private Foundation. I was over the moon!
In January, with the help of our incredible, therapist, Marelyne, we interviewed potential candidates. To both of us, it was a slam-dunk decision. Maria Alicia Choc was perfect for the position. A young Kaqchikel teacher with a smile that lights a room, “Ali” has a number years experience working as a preschool teacher for another International NGO and a local government program in her community. She is mama, to one son.
For the first seven weeks, we ran the preschool program out of our beautiful community hall. With the quickly approaching spring break and volunteer program, we knew we had to be out of there as soon as possible.
Thanks to the generous support of SpencerCreo Foundation, we had received the funding to complete the Learning Centre which we had started with the school groups in Spring 2014. This beautiful building will be the first in a cluster of structures which will have facilities for learning and creativity. On March 9th, we had a little inauguration and the preschool/library opened its doors to the families at Project Somos and the neighbouring community of Chivarabal. (we hold weekly playground or library time for the local children). I will write more about this building in a separate blog.
Every morning from 8am-noon, the doors to the little pink building open and the children come running from their home, through the playground. Two of our workers’ children arrive from their homes within Chivarabal. On the weekends, our “littles” have been known to cry when they find out it isn’t a school day. On the days when our “big boys” (ages 7 and 9) don’t have school, they want to attend the preschool! I would say that, without a doubt, this small project, within our big Project, is an overwhelming success. Thank you to everyone who helped make this happen!
With a heart full of gratitude,