The Crèche Program
What is a crèche?
“Crèche” is a term used in India for a simple day nursery or preschool for young children. The crèches we fund go way beyond simple: the needs of the children we serve are too great and too immediate.
Our crèches are an intervention program free to poverty stricken children. Safety, nutrition, hygiene and health care must be in place before learning is possible. While all this is occurring, they’re getting a developmentally appropriate education in a nurturing, caring, structured environment
The crèche concept in India springs from the work of Maria Montessori, whose ideas on education, especially as a way of educating India’s poor, had caught on in India decades before she came there in 1939 to work.
Today the Montessori model is followed in our crèches. The head teachers are experienced educators with specialized training in the method, with its emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s psychological, physical, and social development.
Each of our crèches serves around 50 children, ages 2-5.
The crèches open at 8:00 am and close at 4:30 pm, six days a week, eleven months a year. All crèches follow the same daily schedule and curriculum. As children arrive they play until everyone’s there; blessing and breakfast are at 9:30, followed by brushing teeth and yoga. A large group session is followed by smaller age-group instruction, with lots of free play. Lunch, cooked on the premises, is next, and afternoon naps, snacks, and more free play complete the day.
Each crèche is lead by two certified teachers with bachelor degrees in early childhood education. Tamil, the local language, is the medium at all schools, but children are taught in Tamil and English. They learn the alphabet, songs, writing and counting. Memorizing stories and traditional rhymes, dancing to popular music, drawing, and playing games are part of the daily routine. Children practice good hygiene — washing hands, coughing on a sleeve, using the toilet, brushing teeth, frequent face and hand washing.
Each year, every child receives two new uniforms, a sweater, a pair of shoes and a book bag.
They also receive two nutritious meals and a snack daily, this may be the only food they eat all day. A full-time nurse regularly screens each child for height and weight, and measures arm circumference; a rice belly can mask malnutrition but an arm tells the truth. Children requiring further medical attention are sent to the health center or to area clinics which report their progress back to the crèche staff.
The positive benefits from each crèche ripples throughout their community.
Older children, who were often kept home from school to care for younger siblings, are able to return to school. Parents who work as laborers in the fields, stone quarries or forests know that their children are cared for while they are away at work.
Children who “graduate” from our crèches are popular candidates for admission at better quality area schools because their sound foundation and potential are recognized. Crèche graduates usually finish elementary school, most go on to high school, and by now, some are in or have already completed college. As adults, they have the tools to provide for their own families and to contribute to their communities.
250 children a year, year after year. It makes a difference. Our crèches help to break the cycle of poverty, bring hope, and create a better life.