Jul 17, 2013

Confessions of a godfather

Receiving a plaque.

The words “padrino” (godfather) and “madrina” (godmother) mean something more in Venezuela than just sponsors at a Christian baptism. Anyone who serves as a mentor or patron to an individual, or even to a group, may be honored with the title of padrino or madrina, and it is quite an honor.

So I was moved when I was named padrino of the 10th group of children to graduate from our preschool. They do not choose a padrino every year. In fact, the only other padrino in the last 10 years was a fellow who had children in the preschool and, as head of the neighborhood council, was a great promoter of it.

As padrino, I presided over the graduation ceremony, presenting the children with their diplomas and various gifts. Graduates from our preschool, who will be starting first grade in the public elementary school in September, include:

Yuliannys E. Ascanio
Ximena V. Barrueta Z.
Edwar J. Garrido S.
Ailyn T. Noguera S.
Angela I. Piñero A.
Luís L.Rivas M.
Nazareth Zambrano P.

The children and their teachers, in turn, presented me with two plaques. Two, because there will be some changes in our preschool this next school year, starting with the name. Up to now the preschool has been known as “Centro de Educación Integral Nutriniño Mi Pequeña Lucecita”. One plaque was from the preschool under this name, thanking me for my support and dedication to Christian education and “teaching us the Word of God.”

The second plaque was from the preschool under its new name, “Simoncito Comunitario Mi Pequeña Lucecita,” thanking me for my support and “bringing us to know the love of God in Christ.” Of all the plaque that I have received in my life, none have mattered more.

To explain the situation a bit more: In 2003 there was in our area a program called "Nutriniño" funded by a state-supported, non-profit  organization called "Fundación del Niño." This program allowed persons living in poverty-stricken neighborhoods to open preschools in their homes, provided the homes passed inspection. The program provided the money for two nutritionally balanced meals per day for the children, and paid the salaries of certified preschool teachers to conduct classes.

Meeting with local authorities.
Luz Maria enrolled in the program and ours has become the most successful of the "Nutriniño" preschools. So successful, in fact, that it is the only one left.  All of the others, across the country, have now been closed as funds to continue the program have dwindled. The Nutriniño program no longer exists.
Now we will be subject to state supervision under the auspices of “Proyecto Simoncito.” This is a similar program to provide free preschool education and nutritionally balanced meals to children, ages 2 to 6, but under more direct control of the Ministry of Education.
There are three reasons, on this end, why our preschool will remain open, despite the closing of the other Nutriniño preschools:
1.  We have gained the confidence of local authorities, who see us as an extremely positive influence in the community;
2. We have the enthusiastic support of the preschool children's parents, several of whom showed up for our meeting with the local authorities to support the continuation of the preschool;
3. We meet an urgent need for quality Christian preschool education.
There are some adjustments that we will have to make. Up to now, our preschool hours have been 8 a.m. to  noon weekdays, leaving us plenty of time to prepare for Luz Maria's tutoring of older children from 4 to 6 p.m. Starting in September we will have to keep the preschool open from 7:30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m.  This will require a number of things from us, such as making provision for as many as 25 children to take midday naps and baths, as is the custom. Luz Maria will continue her tutoring program, which also is quite popular and growing in numbers of students. Of course, we expect that the longer preschool hours will allow us additional opportunity to provide basic instruction in the Christian faith.
What we consider a real setback is that starting in September we will only be able to enroll children from 2 to 4 years of age. Five-year-olds will be required to transfer to another preschool, ostensibly to make the best use of existing educational resources. These are the children who we will lose as a result of this decision:

José Ignacio Garrido S.
Aliesca F. Ascanio V.
Anyilimar K. Meza R.
Dalmarys F. Barrios T.
Greisy C. Altuve R.
Erick A. Salinas M.
Angel M. Ascanio D.

We hope and pray that, God willing, we will get our five- and six-year-olds back in the 2014-2015 school year. The fact that our preschool remains open is also due to the prayers and financial  support of individuals, congregations and mission societies in the United States. God bless you all. We ask that you continue to pray for us and support us as we face the challenges of another 10 years.

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