First I would like to announce the winner of our giveaway! Across Linkedin, Facebook, and our site, Wendy Conrad has been selected! Wendy will receive the book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell. I am so glad that Wendy finds value in the blog as a conversational tool for her students!
I have traveled to Mexico before and always make it a point to visit a prescholar.
The prescholar I visit has changed every year depending upon various factors. In 2015 the prescholar I visited the year before had been destroyed by a hurricane, and the administrator told me it had put a tremendous strain on the other local facilities to try to help the displaced children.
Sometimes I am able to contact the administrators before I go, and other times I have hopped into a cab and said, “Take me to a preschool!”
Our preschool collects items over the year for me to deliver. We ask students what they would like for preschoolers from Mexico to know about them. Our care packages include a variety of items, information about our area, and stuffed toys that represent local animals. We order extra bilingual books from Scholastic during the year and have even taken Indian fry bread mix for them to sample.
The streets of downtown Cabo San Lucas are busy and bright, with a light dusting of powdery dirt. The tour companies are working hard, welcoming you from their kiosks and offering tours to El Arco or zip lines. The hosts and hostesses beckon for you to come to their restaurant, and everyone has “the best tacos” in town.
The palm trees are tall, the streets are alive with sound, and the air is a humid 89 degrees.
Further in are the blocks and blocks of storage unit shops, each metal door representing a “small business owner.” From 9:00 am to 9:30 pm these doors will be open with a kaleidoscope rainbow of colors. The shopkeepers will be calling to tourists, “The price is right, senorita!” and “Almost free for you today!” I wonder where they live, if their families have one of the small haciendas further in, or how many of them live in shanties like chicken coops in the arroyos. I wonder if they had to ride the public bus to work, how long their trip was, and where their children are.
There are signs that read “No exploitacion infantils” which go into further detail to caution you from buying things from children. Purchasing items from children on the street perpetuates pulling children from school to help support the family. A little boy of about eight approaches me to sell me shells and I say in what I hope was a kind but firm way, “No gracias, you should be in school.”
Closer now to real life and further from the malls, marina, and tourist wonderlands, I am closer to Mexico. There are three prescholars clustered at an intersection, the fourth corner occupied by a hollowed out cement building surrounded by broken glass. Abandoned by all assumptions of the Americanos zipping by in taxis, but if you look closely, people live there.
The prescholar I choose is small and plain surrounded by a tall metal fence. I ring the bell and wait.
“Buenos Dias!” Chirps a slight Mexican woman with a big smile. I hand her my note courtesy of Google translator explaining in Spanish that I am a preschool owner from South Dakota, and that if it is all right I would like to come inside and see their school and give them a few gifts.
She reads over my letter. The look on her face can only be described as someone who is fluent in Spanish trying to read Chinese. Thanks a lot Google. She smiles and leaves to get their administrator.
I am greeted next by Victoria. By the end of our conversation and the tour of the school, I know we are cut from the same cloth of dedication to early childhood education. While we might be “professionalism twins,” and “leadership sisters,” you can still tell us apart, as I am about twelve inches taller than her, and she is just a little tanner than me.
I could tell another story about their school. A large fenced in courtyard with AstroTurf was covered by green canopies to block out the Baja desert sun. All of the children were in white polo shirts with either shorts or skirts in navy blue. What impacted me most was the even split of male to female teachers, and of course the friendly, inquisitive children.
Victoria graciously received the gifts from our preschool. She then looked at me frankly and said, “Why us?” I said, “Because I knew fate would lead me where I was supposed to go.” Her eyes filled with tears and she replied, “Muchas gracias.”
While random acts of kindness in foreign countries are nice, you don’t have to travel abroad to help high risk communities with early childhood education. You can donate to organizations such as the NAEYC. There is also plenty of need in our own communities. Centers that offer extended hours, weekend care, infant care, and care for children with mild illnesses are huge needs not only in Rapid City, but South Dakota as well and across the Midwest. Lack of flexible, quality care and education affects children and their families. In our community we have young parents who can’t complete general education diplomas, attend evening classes for advanced degrees, some aren’t even able to make it to work due to limited hours of child care availability. You can also help by donating to centers in your community who have needs. An example of this is Dear One’s Daycare Center in Rapid City that serves families who are homeless. They are always looking for donated items. Early childhood educators can also partner with organizations like Starting Strong Rapid City to help provide full day care for low income families.
What are the needs and concerns of the prescholar? They are not so different from our own. They want health and safety for their students. They want a community who understands and supports the importance of early childhood education. They want to help their student’s families by giving their children a fun place to play and learn when they have to be apart.