Children, children everywhere! One hundred and forty of them! Our host here in Jamaica, Tony Beach took us to visit Mrs Brown’s Daycare in the Edgecombe Ghetto of Runaway Bay last week. Tony has great respect for the work done at this daycare and he wanted us to see it for ourselves. Here’s Tony with Mrs Claudette Brown who runs a daycare for 140 children on a tiny piece of land in a ramshackle old building with four small rooms. Six other women work with her. When we drove up the children outside playing in the small cement and dirt front yard rushed up to the gate to greet us. The children said “Hello, Hola and Bonjour” welcoming us in three languages. “Do you want to know how to say hello in German?” Dave asked. When he said, “Guten Tag,” the kids quickly copied him. A little boy immediately grabbed Dave’s hand and a little girl mine when we entered the yard offering to be our guides. It was amazing how many children were crammed into each of the tiny rooms. In the two-year-old’s room, they were giving the children lunch. Tony told us when the daycare runs short of money for salaries the women who work there simply divide whatever funds they have left after expenses for their salaries. Apparently Mrs Brown often ends up staying at the daycare till well after it closes at 5 pm, sometimes till 8 o’clock, because parents don’t show up to pick up their children. Sometimes she just ends up taking children who are left behind home with her.
The kids ran to get books and asked me to read to them. I was amazed at how they knew their colors, the names of shapes, concepts like big and small and over and under. Tony told us the local primary schools say children from Mrs Brown’s daycare are usually well ahead of the other students when they enter school. A teacher in a tiny dark classroom with tarp walls was working on counting concepts with a small group of older children. Tony and Mrs Brown were having a heart to heart talk while we toured the daycare. Tony runs an after school program in Runaway Bay and he tries to share supplies donated to his program with Mrs Brown and help her out financially when he can. Often parents of Mrs Brown’s students can’t afford to pay the minimal fee she charges and she hates to make the children leave because she tells Tony, “it’s not their fault their parents don’t pay and I can’t punish them because of their parents.” As kids do everywhere these Jamaican sweethearts loved Dave and they all wanted to play with him. Claudette Brown gets no government support for her daycare. It is her own service to the community. She’s quite an amazing woman.
We were so glad Tony had taken us to Mrs Brown’s daycare. She is doing so much to help so many children with so very little.
Other posts about Jamaica……..
The Remarkable Place We Work in Runaway Bay
Pirates, Plantations, Political Activists and Pot
Acquiring a Taste for Jamaican Food