At first thing in the morning, the two zones in which a street divides the complex of PSE, always transited, are suddenly united. They are joined by a long string of colors with a monitor at each end and many tiny children seized by hand to the cord, who cross the street to go to day care. On either side of this strange and amusing row are other monitors carrying the youngest in their arms. They are the grand guests of the new PSE sub-program called Kindergarden.
Kindergarden is a subprogram, in a sense, new; In a sense, because it has had precedents: two years ago, the PSE Social Services department asked the School Continuity Program to take care of the babies of some PSE families, so that the mothers could go to work during the Summer without having to rely on extra help for the care of their children. Last year, in view of the usefulness of this aid, a subprogram was organized to provide care for infants over two years of age, but, as with other subprograms – the subprogram for construction – it did not count with a group of stable monitors, but they were rotating from week to week, which limited the possibilities of implanting ideas and establishing stable protocols.
“It is really lucky to be here, facing this new challenge: I have the opportunity to start from scratch, to invent everything, to find solutions to specific problems and to design, with the help of everyone, what I would like this month to be for these children, I’m happy. “
So, Kindergarden may have existed somehow before, but certainly not with the strength and solidity of this year, not with a group of dedicated instructors, entirely, throughout the program, for the smallest, nor with Agendas as well planned as this year. In addition, in this new Kindergarden, the minimum age has been extended with respect to the previous year; Now children that are a few months to three years old go, when before they could only attend those that were more than two. Additionally, more babies from PSE families of the area have been fostered.
It has been a great idea: the previous year fifteen babies were taken care of, and this year there are about fifty. A success, considering that the objective of this subprogram is twofold: to take care of babies – attending to their basic needs and playing with them during the day – and to free their mothers so that they can work.
WHEN EVERYTHING IS ABOUT TO BE INVENTED
“It is really lucky to be here,” says Nana, her coordinator “facing this new challenge: I have the opportunity to start from nothing, to invent everything, to find solutions to concrete problems and to design, with the help of everyone, what I would like this month to be for these children, I’m happy. “And they do not lack ideas, nor efficiency either, because no one would say that this Kindergarden is almost premiere.
A SPACE FOR BABIES
The Kindergarden subprogram is developed in three boarding rooms where teenagers and handicapped people live. Before reaching them, you must climb stairs and cross an exterior corridor that closes with a large fence – to prevent any mischief to go to the stairs. On one side of the corridor, next to the railing, a row of tiny plastic cubes, all red, awaits no one knows what. It is necessary to wait until the time of the breakfast – cooked rice crushed and smoked dry fish that must be crumbled – is finished to discover it: when these ends, a row of children put their bottoms on them and they wait patiently for something to happen … they are urinals!
“The biggest challenge, and most rewarding, is to get a baby to stop crying, it’s like a great triumph. If you also get her to laugh, then that day is perfect! “
“They’re very clever,” says Nana, “if you tell them where the urinals are after breakfast or lunch, they go and sit down,” and she smiles as she watches them sitting on the throne of patience. “Some, the oldest ones, even sit in the middle of an activity, they learn very fast!”
Kindergarden has eight Cambodian and seven European monitors who have freely chosen to come to this subprogram: only Teenagers, Handicapped and Kindergarden give that possibility, for the rest of subprograms the monitors are directly assigned according to their profile. The number of children varies: the first week they took care of about fifty children, and this week, the third, the number of children is around thirty-five.
LEARN BY WALKING
The baths are one of the things that must be organized thinking especially in them. Here, in Kindergarten for the baths – always after the siesta -, two large barrels are prepared with water and in groups of six they are bathed. Some kids cry. “The biggest challenge, and most gratifying,” says Sara, a monitor, “is to get a baby to stop crying, it’s like a great triumph. If you also get her to laugh, then that day is perfect! ”
“I like to watch them sleep, because it means that they have taken advantage of the day and that, in that moment, they are resting.”
“Another thing we have learned,” says Nana, “is that we cannot plan many activities or divide the children into groups to make different games, it is not possible to work with them that way, that’s why we have organized for each day of the week a theme, in which everyone participates. ”
Mondays and Thursdays are the days for crafts, in which children, especially, paint – they have decorated with their coloured hands the big wooden fence that is used to block the exit of the end of the hall -, they play with Plasticine or adorn a large piñata, which will serve to make them happy on Fridays – they are only children, with the Pensionnaires and Handicapped, who do not have Olympics – when they break it and discover all the surprises inside. Wednesday is the most variable day, in which different things can be done: last Wednesday, for example, the monitors chose music as the theme and they brought a guitar and maracas and they were singing and playing the instruments with the children. And today, that is Tuesday, it is time to pool.
“This is a simple subprogram, it’s the only one where you do not have to know Cambodian to understand children.”
THE PARTY OF JOY
The pool is another of the new features of this Kindergarden that opens. This year, a huge inflatable bathtub that is filled with water halfway with a large hose and from which children come and go very easily and with total freedom has been bought. There are no words to describe the moment of the bath: the pool is a party, the party of joy. We should put songs, very happy songs, to help understand this time full of magic, and fill it all with water – the pool, the air, the faces, the clothes – because the hose is used to fill the air with laughter and wet everyone without exception, children, and monitors. Bath day is a great day. Later, when the nap comes, the children fall asleep immediately – “they fall like flies,” a monitor said. “I like to watch them sleep, because it means they have taken advantage of the day and that, in that moment, they are resting,” says Nana.
For someone who does not work in a kindergarden it is a mystery to understand how to manage and understand so many babies. But in the monitors’ opinion it is not complicated. “You know right away if they are sick, or what they are asking for, or if they are sleepy. In fact,” they say with a laugh “this is a simple subprogram: it is the only one where you do not have to know Cambodian to understand children. ”
WHERE THE TENDERNESS IS BORN
Kindergarden is where tenderness is born. There are hardly any words, because their children barely know how to speak. There are no incredible activities, because it is still early to teach them to participate in big challenges. It may almost seem that there is hardly anything except a riot of snot, cries, and laughter, of little ants that move without stopping. And yet. Everything is full of tenderness. There is tenderness in their glance. In their cry. In their laughter. The way they shake hands with you. And put the butt in the urinals. Their sleep. The way they cuddle on your lap. And how they look at you while you help them eat. Yes: Kindergarden is where tenderness is born.