The Hogar Infantil san Pablo, a nursery
for 480 children from birth to seven years of age, meets the needs
of a particularly disadvantaged population in an area of Popayan,
in the south of Colombia. It provides three main services: school
education, nutritional support through food aid and medical checks.
It also acts as a community focus to improve social conditions and
seeks to reach adults.
after the earthquake and led by Margarita with the aid of associations
in France and Canada, the nursery accommodated 300 children at first
(480 by February 2001).
Considerable difficulties put the project at risk
although it is soundly financed, with a 20% contribution from the
Bienestar Familial institute, the official Colombian health organisation.
Today, the children are divided by age:
- In Salacerna: 50 babies aged from birth
to one year.
Aims: to secure health, hygiene and feeding.
To teach young mothers the essential tenets of babycare
to ensure healthy growth.
- In Caminadores: 100 children aged from
1 to 3 years.
Aims: to encourage stimulating activities
and provide a hot meal.
- In Escuela: 200 children aged from 3 to
Aims: to arrange school classes taught by
infant teachers and provide a hot meal.
The adults are also involved in the work of the
nursery with monthly meetings, the 'Charlas' leading to presentations,
followed by discussions prepared by doctors, psychologists, sociologists,
or lawyers on the various problems in the daily lives of the families
and of the area.
The 'Modisteria' is a clothing workshop where children's clothes
are made and where the women can benefit from classes for their
own development or to acquire work-related skills.
The nursery aims to allow children to grow up in the most favourable
circumstances during their formative years (from birth to six years
of age) which are the most important for them. The very pleasant
atmosphere offers parents somewhere to share their problems and
sometimes find solutions from caring staff of whom more than half
live in Bario el Retiro.
Medical cover is provided in the San Pablo medical centre a few
yards from the nursery.
There are two medical consulting rooms, an emergency
room, a dental surgery, a pharmacy and a small laboratory. A secretary
and a nurse work full time and five doctors (two general practitioners,
one gynaecologist, one paediatrician, one ear, nose and throat)
and three dentists work by turns.
The centre allows preventative treatment through
regular medical checks, treatment of growth problems and treating
infections in children with additional responsibility for medical
problems in adults.
Keeping proper medical records allows systematic
follow-up. The centre regularly welcomes doctors, psychologists
and nurses from overseas offering their services for periods of
a few weeks to such a delightful people.
To carry on its work the nursery needs:
- A director at $US 250 per month
- An accountant at $US 220 per month
- Two secretaries and two nursing auxiliaries at $US190
- Three infant teachers at $US180 per month.
- Ten paediatric nurses, three cooks and three service
assistants at $US175 per month.
This totals 25 persons at $US4570 per month.
The food budget is about $US2000 per month. The operating and maintenance
budget is about $US3000 per month.
This means an operating budget of around $US9570
per month ($US1.15 per child per day, say 7FRF or 1 Euro approximately).
The Bienestar Familial institute contributes to
the food budget each month, amounting to about 21% of the total
As for the remaining $US7570, Margarita can only
count on donations from Canada, France and Finland and the modest
parental contribution of up to $US75 per month. The most disadvantaged
pay according to their means or not at all.
A bakery is under construction next to the nursery
to bring in some additional income, but it will not be enough to
meet the operating budget.
Margarita and the children of the Barrio el Retiro need
support, your support. The nursery exists, the buildings are in
place and children are crowding in. It is essential that financial
underpinning from donations is found to support and maintain this
marvellous example of social integration and self help.