When I lived in the Lower Lempa I was amazed with the quality childcare available to those families (in addition to the center in San Ramón, ANADES has centers in two rural areas of the country, Perquín, Morazán and Bajo Lempa, Usulután). Imagine living in a tiny rural community where you and your neighbors work to make ends meet despite endless obstacles and limitations, yet you can send your children to learn and play and grow right down the street – for free! Women from the community are well trained and employed at the center – and mothers of young children get a whole morning to get some work done! I had seen more than a few aid organizations come into the community offering agricultural support or new latrines, but they always demanded a considerable amount of time from the families – especially women. Here ANADES was investing in education and helping women manage their numerous responsibilities at the same time. It was revolutionary!
Later on I had the honor of helping Program Velasco evaluate the Centro Hogar experience. We surveyed parents and now teenage and young adult alumni. We also conducted long interviews with ANADES staff members about the history and trajectory of the center. My baby was 6 months old at the time – too young to be enrolled – but he helped conduct some of the focus groups from the comfort of his wrap carrier! What most impressed me from our findings was the sense of identity that grows from the center. I believe that families and communities who have a strong sense of who they are and where they come from are better positioned to envision their future. This was evident when talking to the ANADES family.
We were thrilled when we found out there was space for Camilo at Centro Hogar last year. In a way, it was the culmination of my experience in El Salvador to join this community as a fellow parent. I could finally get some work done while my kid was leaping around and dancing under images of Monseñor Romero at the foot of the San Salvador volcano. My husband and I went to meetings and clean up campaigns and cracked jokes about Chikungunya induced arthritis with other parents. We felt part of something bigger than ourselves. We will be forever inspired to continue nurturing that spirit in our child – no matter how or where we are living.
Rosie Ramsey currently lives outside of Washington, D.C. with her husband and son, Camilo. Camilo is pictured above, playing the trumpet.