Tell us about your day at Fundación Corazón de Niña. How does it unfold from one hour to the next?
5:30 to7:00: Getting ready for school
The day starts early at Corazón. Everyone rises at 5:30AM. The children have two hours before school starts at 7:30AM . In that time they have to get themselves ready for school, do their chores and get to school. Visitors have a habit of popping in unannounced so the casa must be spotless at all times. And it’s just good practice to keep everything in good order.
It doesn’t take long for thirty plus children to wreak havoc on a place. Imagine all those people in your home, plus I might add, the dogs and the birds! A perfectly clean house can look like it hasn’t seen a broom in months in the space of minutes. It’s amazing to watch.
All the cleaning and organizing is done by the children. Nobody comes in to do that for them. So they are busy little beavers (as we Canadians like to say) in that hour and a half before they leave for school. Every task is scheduled and assigned up to and including taking out our own garbage and picking up the garbage left by customers of the store next door. There’s lots to do. And, of course, they also have to get themselves ready — hair brushed, uniform ironed, school books packed. The little ones get help from the older girls.
Do they walk to school on their own?
7:00 to 7:30 Getting to school
No. Juan drives them. It’s about one kilometer to the schools on a typically Mexican road — rough and full of pot-holes. The kids carry backpacks full of heavy books and they were getting sprained ankles as a result. In the rainy season the road turns into a mud-hole so we just decided to drive them. Two vehicles were donated by INTERNATIONAL RELIEF TEAMS which made a huge difference. They don’t all fit in one so Juan makes two trips. We do what we have to do.
So you get a break from the children while they’re in school. What happens when they return?
2:30 to 3:30: La Comida
School gets out at 2PM. So yes, the school period leaves me time to attend to administrative tasks before the herd gets back. From 2:30 to 3:30 we have ‘la comida,’ our main meal of the day. Food is prepared in the main house and taken to the boys.
Like everything else at Corazón, the kids carry out “la comida” from start to finish. Adults serve as facilitators, helping them to work through problems and offering advice when needed. They plan what to eat with guidance from me (to ensure the choices are healthful ), purchase any supplies that we don’t have on hand, cook the meal and clean up.
The chores schedule for the day identifies who is on duty for each meal. Two girls do food preparation, two clean up and two clean the dining and living areas.
3:30 to 4:30: Studies
After “la comida”, everyone does homework — known as “la tarea” — which can last for up to three hours on some days. There are three or four adults helping with “la tarea” from Monday to Friday. Many of these children are well behind in their schooling. Some are illiterate when they arrive here. Academic support is critical and it has paid off handsomely. Eighty-five percent is the minimum grade average for our children. Some operate at ninety-five percent. All have been granted scholarships to further their education. We’re so proud of them and so grateful to their schools for the excellent job they do.
Right. It’s 4:30 now. What’s next?
4:30 to 6:30: Extracurricular Activities
Next are extracurricular activities. Every child does something in the two hours between 4:30 and 6:30 – provided they have finished their homework. Seven children go to cross-fit training, twelve go to ballet and folkloric dance, one is involved in Olympic gymnastics and the rest run at the stadium.
Your main meal is over. Do you have another smaller meal in the evening?
7:00 to 8:00: Dinner
Yes, it’s called “la cena”. It’s a light meal — salad, fruit, yogurt. Again, the kids prepare the food and clean up.
And then I suppose, there is a wrap-up to the day.
8:00 to 9:00: Prepare for Bed
Right. They organize themselves for the next day — iron their uniforms, shower and brush teeth, put their clothes away, read, pray and then it is lights out until the next day. At 5:30 the next morning it starts all over again.