A Model Facility
The Country of Mexico is known internationally for the quality of its government sponsored Child Care facilities. The mandatory building design and operational/staffing requirements are used as models emulated world-wide. Against hundreds of competitive applications, Rancho Feliz’s Vecinos neighborhood was chosen by the government to be the site for a regional Child Care facility in Agua Prieta. Securing this designation took a tremendous amount of work and lobbying and was quite an honor for Rancho Feliz.
The 10,000 square foot facility was completed in 2005 at a cost of $565,000 in donations. The funding was raised primarily through proceeds from Rancho Feliz’s ‘2005 “Frijole 500” fundraising 500-mile bicycle ride (from Santa Fe, NM to Telluride, CO), a grant from the Armstrong Family Foundation and a grant from Union Fenosa, a Mexican Corporation.
The arrangement with the Mexican Federal Government is that we supply the land and build the facility and the government subsidizes each child in the amount of $2,500 pesos per month (approx. $250US). This figure can fluctuate based on the actual number of days per month a child attends. There is no charge to the family for this state-of-the-art child care and infant education as long as one of the parents is working. Similar child care in the United States costs over $1,000 per child per month. The facility has a 190 child capacity and it currently cares for 165 children ranging in ages from 40 days old up to 4 years old.
A Loan for the Future
Due to this unique income generating situation, Rancho Feliz requested that the $565,000 in construction funding be designated as a 30 year loan payable monthly to the Vecinos Dignos Sin Fronteras, Asociación Civil (“Vecinos, A.C.”), from the revenues generated from the governmental subsidies. The Vecinos, A.C. is the registered Mexican charitable organization that owns the Vecinos land and its improvements. Rancho Feliz has the controlling interest in the Vecinos, A.C. and can therefore designated the use of the loan proceeds and any surplus cash flow from the Child Care Facility to expand and fund its ongoing charity work in the community.
Keeping Children in School
The Vecinos Child Care Facility is particularly important to the community due to the fact that in many of the poorer Mexican families both parents have to work full time just to survive. (Also, in many households there is no father.) An average full-time factory wage is around $200 per month. Few mothers have the luxury of staying home to care for their children. What this means is that the older children are pulled out of school to care for their younger siblings. Once they have dropped out of school these children – at no fault of their own – have no hope of escaping their inherited prisons of poverty. And so the cycle continues.
However, with the Vecinos Child Care Facility, mothers, and fathers, can go to work secure in the knowledge that their younger children are safe, well cared for and that they are receiving the latest in child education. And most importantly, their older children can stay in school and have hope for a better life.
During the first 3 years of a child’s life the foundations for thinking, language, vision, attitudes, aptitudes and other characteristics are laid down through the connection of brain cells. Then the windows close and at age three 90% of the fundamental architecture of the brain is completed. At Rancho Feliz we believe we have a social and moral imperative to prevent brain damage caused by the lack of proper environmental stimulation during the infant brain’s crucial first 3 years of development.
Accordingly, in conjunction with the Phoenix-based New Directions Institute for Infant Brain Development, Rancho Feliz has introduced infant and pre-school educational formats into the Vecinos Child Care Facility. In addition, on August 28, 2006 the Vecinos Child Care Facility began kindergarten classes for 3 years olds. These classes are recognized officially by the Mexico Public Department of Education. We are very proud of this achievement. Out of 88 Child Care facilities in the State of Sonora, we are the first (and only) one able to meet all of the requirements to be State certified to offer these classes.
The Vecinos Child Care Facility is a wonderful recruiting ground for our “Guardian Warrior” Educational Scholarship Program. Once the children graduate from kindergarten, many will have the opportunity to continue their education through scholarships sponsored by Rancho Feliz.