Actually, this friendly place, where up to 150 children aged 0-12 years are cared for, is called „Guardería Luz Divino“ („Day Care Center Divine Light“). Whoever is accepted here is really lucky. The caregivers are very committed and dedicate themselves with much love to the children neglected at home.
This state-run project is not an orphanage or refuge for street children. All children live with their parents or single mothers. Quite a few of the women have been abandoned by their partner and now raise their children alone. Often money is scarce and the kids cannot be properly cared for because the child’s father has left and does not pay alimony. The women have to go to work, but cannot afford kindergarten or other care. Other children live together with mum and dad but experience domestic violence, have parents who are addicted to alcohol or drugs and are traumatized.
But for some children there is help: if the parents (or mother) apply to some kind of social welfare, they are put on a waiting list and after a certain time they get a place in the Guardería for their child, sometimes even for the siblings. If necessary, the children are picked up from home with a minibus and brought back in the evening. The day care centre is open Monday to Friday from 5.30 to 17.30 and is completely free of charge. The older school children spend their vacation here or, if they have school, their afternoons or mornings (depending when classes start) to do homework or prepare for tests or exams, which is often not possible at home.
The children are divided into seven groups according to their age (the groups with babies and toddlers are smaller than the older kids). Each group is led by a permanently employed „Maestra“ (teacher), supported by two other employed assistants or volunteers. The daily routine is strictly regulated; without organization, the house would be in chaos. The employees do not leave the children to themselves, but make sure that they are occupied meaningfully and learn something according to their age.
I help in the group with the small children under two years of age. At the moment there are seven to eight. So close to Christmas some parents have vacation and do not send their little ones to the Guardería. What I noticed right away is that the kids hardly ever cry, except when they are bitten by another child. But if they fall down or bump into each other, they don’t make a big fuss, they just carry on. One staff member said that they just want to „survive“…
For the volunteer jobs in the children’s house you do not need any special training. Many volunteers come here directly after high school / before going to college or university. The children are thankful for any kind of attention and happy to receive it. And the educators are happy to have someone at their side to hold their „gang of little rascals“ together, play with the kids, tie their shoes, have fun on the playground or feed the small kids. So, for all those who like children, it might be the right volunteer job. It is sometimes a little exhausting, but you get a lot back from the kids.