This Is a Home

“This isn’t a daycare,” Wilson said. “This is a home.”

I couldn’t have asked for a better commendation. It’s the beginning of the New Year, so we’ve been focused on analyzing the past six months, brainstorming ideas for the future, and implementing new strategies and programs for the kids at Casita Copán. What better way to realize it’s all worth it than the candid praise of our 4-year-old Wilson?

He’s right. Whenever I try to explain Casita Copán, I can’t find the right words. The word ‘daycare’ doesn’t quite express the environment of care, love, and family that characterizes Casita Copán. Here the kids play together, bicker over toys, laugh, cry, share meals, tell stories, make jokes, lounge on the couch together, tease each other – all like a real family. In the United States, I worked at two different daycares for a total of 4 years. They were clean, well-supervised, fun, but never did the kids bond to each other and to their caregivers the way I’ve seen our kids bond to each other and our amazing staff.

Part of it is the need for love and attention that our kids have. Many come from difficult family backgrounds, and often their mothers are too tired at the end of the day (many work 10 hours a day, 6 or 7 day a week) to share the love they wish they could. The sad truth is that many of our mothers come from backgrounds of extreme poverty, neglect, and abuse themselves. How hard would it be to raise your kids with all the attention they need if you never received love yourself?

But I don’t want to cast our mothers as lost causes, or as women who don’t have the capacity to love or provide care to their children. This is not the case. That’s why we are focused in the new year on figuring out ways that we can support our mothers to build their self-esteem, their job skills, and more to help them find better jobs and make smart choices so they can be the mothers they want to be. We believe that children should be with their mothers. Sure, we’ll be here to lend the love and support along the way, but at the end of the day, keeping families together is vital to building a healthy community.

What do they say, home is where the heart is? Take it from someone who has two homes herself – Pittsburgh and Copán. I’d say that an extra home – an extra place where you feel safe, secure, and loved – is a pretty special thing to have.