In an Argentina, where more than 40% of the population and more than 56% of children live under the poverty line, an increasing number of families face difficulties in accessing the most basic food and supplies. Faced with this challenging reality, there are public policies and people with a willingness to act, who are confident that support, care and education from early childhood can change the present and the future of these children.
An example of this dedication is the Multicolores Day Care Center, located in a very vulnerable area of the municipality of Godoy Cruz, in the province of Mendoza. The institution receives 250 boys and girls divided in two shifts, approximately 100 attend the kindergarten, 120 the educational support center, and 30 attend the dining room.
Daniela Torres, the Director of Protection and Restitution of Rights belonging to the Ministry of Social Development, Health and Sports of the government of Mendoza, who contributes directly to the activities (food, services and pedagogical support) of the institution, highlighted the work and dedication of the authorities and teachers of the Day Care Center. This early childhood space works by providing care and pedagogical support in situations of vulnerability, focused on involving the family with integration activities, workshops and activities which provide parents with tools which allow them to participate more actively in their upbringing.
Many of the children who attend the Day Care are living through difficult situations: their homes are precarious, many of their parents are very young and inexperienced, cannot access basic services and goods, are often out of the labor market, live in poverty or extreme poverty and in many cases go through situations of domestic violence and addictions that directly affect the growth, development and environment in which the children live.
Within this framework, the work of the day care center is essential for the survival and development of these 250 boys and girls, who find in this space a place of belonging, of company, affection, care and education, that allows them to have a better present and the possibility of a better future.
"Multicolores is an exemplary space, in which you can see all the work being done by directors, teachers, assistants and staff. It is a space where they work in the best interest of the children who come to the center, providing not only an educational, pedagogical, nutritional and social service, but also creative projects to involve the families, providing different tools to the parents and tutors of the children which create spaces where families come and find a place of support and trust, facilitating the accompaniment and monitoring of children," said Daniela Torres.
Focusing on the integral development of boys and girls
Early childhood is a phase of enormous developmental potential if it has an enabling environment, it is also a period during which children are particularly vulnerable. Ensuring that children have the proper environment requires comprehensive interventions that take into account the dimensions of protection, nutrition, health, inclusion, care and education, among others. Multicolores seeks to address all these dimensions and create a harmonious environment where children can fully develop.
Lourdes Rubini, the director of Multicolores, works with great enthusiasm: "We help the children to express themselves, to develop their personality, we help them to create habits such as mealtimes, hand washing, personal hygiene routines and we hold special sessions with the parents to educate them as well. The parents are amazed and tell us how they incorporate what they have learned here into their behavior at home”.
"We try to make sure that during the time that the children are in the day care center, they trust their teachers, feel safe and evolve in their growth," emphasized Lourdes.
Vanesa Rojas, from the General Direction of Child Protection, accompanies Lourdes in the work of social and pedagogical assistance in the institution; they work as a team and provide support to the families, teachers and also to the specialized group of people who work in the kindergarten and are dedicated to detect, follow up and assist children who are victims of rights violations.
Ensuring the nourishment of children, a priority also in times of pandemic
Rojas mentioned that, prior to the pandemic, boys and girls had 3 meal a day: breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack, according to wether they attend the morning or afternoon shifts. When the COVID-19 pandemic begun the day care center closed and the government of the province ensured that children continue to have adequate nutrition and give them a monthly bag of varied foods, strategically suggested by a specialist, but which cannot include either dairy or meat so as not to cut the cold chain. The needs are so great that there are mothers who come to ask for help when they run out of diapers, and the province and the day care respond.
Beyond guaranteeing their daily meals, the day care center continues to foster social relationships and education and care activities through virtual meetings. They feel that it is very important that this bond and the learning that has already been acquired is not lost. "A percentage of the boys and girls who went through the Multicolores Day Care will follow a good path, we try to show them other realities, we want to change their history", assures Vanesa Rojas.
"In the kindergarten we are planting long term seeds, in those four hours they live happily, and from those seeds I am sure that in the future good fruits will come out" expressed Lourdes, who is anxious to meet again with her children to recover the bond with them.
The experience of the Multicolored Day Care Center, in the context of a Provincial Early Childhood Strategy
In the Multicolores day care, different activities are being developed as part of the Joint Program "Early Childhood and Integrated Care System". This Program is an initiative carried out by UNICEF, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the International Labor Organization (ILO), with the coordination of the Resident Coordinator's Office (RCO). The program seeks to contribute to the strengthening of the comprehensive policy of care for the early childhood, with a gender approach, to promote in a strategic and innovative way the fulfillment of Agenda 2030.
Among the different activities carried out within the framework of this Program, there is support to provincial governments for the formulation of their own strategies oriented to early childhood, the collection of diagnostic information, the systematization of experiences, and the design and implementation of training plans for education and care service providers. Multicolores has participated, together with more than 300 other nurseries and centers, in the training actions developed in Mendoza. For this reason, both the caregivers and the kindergarten's management team have been able to learn, among other topics, about strategies to address the emotional impact of the current pandemic situation on children. These new skills will be of great help when they are able to return to work, and will undoubtedly have a positive impact on early childhood well-being.