This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

A safe place to play

SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia — Four-year-old Oscar Yoadel loves the playground at his day care, Guarderia Samuelito. He runs endlessly back and forth across the brightly painted suspension bridge. With a big grin, he descends the metal slide after his father, Oscar Pinto, climbs with him to the top.

Oscar Yoadel, 4, plays at Guarderia Samuelito, his day care in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, run by the Bolivian Evangelical Mennonite Church, an MCC partner. His father, Oscar Pinto, is a single dad who would not be able to work full-time without the day care. — Photo by Nina Linton/MCC

It’s not just the playground he loves. When it’s time for Yoadel to return to his orange-walled classroom, he heads through the door without a glance back at his dad.

When he first started attending the day care, run by the Bolivian Evangelical Mennonite Church in Santa Cruz, Yoadel would cry.

“He was very attached to me because I was the person who was taking care of him,” said his dad, “but now he’s very happy.”

Pinto is a single father who leaves his son at the day care, which receives funding from Mennonite Central Committee’s Global Family education program. Before he heard about the daycare, Pinto would sometimes bring his son to the construction sites so he could watch his son while working.

But in the spring of 2013, the boy was nearly struck by a falling tree at one of the sites.

“After that accident I said there’s no way I could bring him,” Pinto said.

Now that he can regularly leave Yoadel at day care, he has been able to get a steadier job as a taxi driver.

Providing a safe space where single working parents from low-income families can leave their children is the primary goal of Guarderia Samuelito. The church did a survey of the neighborhood in 2005 and found many kids were left alone while their guardian was working.

“Many of the children — we found out that either they stay home taking care of the youngest ones, or a neighbor was watching them for a couple of hours,” said Yuneth Vargas, director of the day care.

Better health, behavior

Most children spend 10 hours at the center every day, giving their parents enough time to drop them off, work eight hours and pick them up at the end of day.

“They become our children; they spend a lot of time with us,” Vargas said.

The day care also aims to improve the children’s health and prepare them for school. Each class does educational activities like singing and drawing. Staff test each child’s intellectual development three times a year, providing follow-up with a psychologist when needed.

The center also provides snacks and meals and has formed a partnership with a nearby clinic to ensure all kids have their vaccinations.

Pinto has noticed a difference in his son’s behavior since he started attending the day care.

“He’s a little more well behaved,” he said. “I’m really happy to be able to do something for my boy.”

Information about MCC’s Global Family program is online at

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