My School, A Place that Makes Me Feel Safe

mexico
By Melany

Edited by Selvia Vargas

Sponsorship Community Mobilizer

Save the Children Mexico

December 15, 2017

Hello, my name is Melany and I’m 4 years old. I live in Mexico City, a big city with a lot of cars, people, houses, streets, stores and noise. My mom takes me to school by bus every day. She says I have to pay attention because it’s dangerous. My school is the place I like the most because I can learn and it’s quiet and clean. They give me healthy things to eat and I can play with my friends.

During the holidays I missed coming to school to study and seeing my friends. I like coloring, but I like it best when my friend Paty colors with me. I also like playing with the blocks in my classroom. It’s fun, we use them to build things. I love building robots the most – I make them large and colorful.

Melany shows how she’s learned to write her name.
Melany shows how she’s learned to write her name.

They are teaching me numbers and letters. I can write my name all by myself now. My teacher helped me a lot. “M” is the easiest letter because it’s the first and the “a” is always the hardest.

My friends from “Los Children” (Save the Children) visit my school sometimes, the ones with the red t-shirts. They helped us form a committee, which I love to be a part of with the other kids in my class. When we get together we talk about our school, like about the yard toys that are old and can cut us. Then we talk about how we can fix them. We think it is important to tell all the other children about our committee so that they can help us take care of our school, too. We also learn how to know dangerous situations, and how to protect ourselves when we are out in the city. We include our parents in our meetings sometimes, to support us in keeping our school clean and safe.

 Melany playing with blocks, getting ready to build a “robot”.

Melany playing with blocks, getting ready to build a “robot”.

“Los Children” came once to measure me and they told me I am healthy, but that I had to eat well and exercise to stay that way. That’s why those same friends came to talk with my mom and my teachers, and they taught them how to prepare good and delicious food for me, something our parents didn’t know so much about before. I like eating in my school, the food is always yummy. I like soup and fruits, especially mangos and strawberries.

The children’s committee and Save the Children have set up a school orchard, too. There we have planted many different things, and we are waiting for them to grow so that we can soon prepare more healthy food with these vegetables.

Thanks to support from our sponsors, Save the Children Mexico is giving children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. Thank you from Mexico City to all of our sponsors who have helped make life better for children like Melany and her classmates!

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

An Open Heart

Susan and Claire

By Susan Warner, Senior Manager, Photography & Multimedia Production and

Claire Garmirian, Media Research Analyst

Susan: I made her cry, good tears. Transformative tears of love for the child in her arms. When I showed Rosa the photo I took of her and her granddaughter, she burst into tears. I knew then I had taken a good photo.

Claire: Rosa and I spent half an hour speaking in the director’s office on the second floor of the school. We gathered chairs together so that she, Ivonne from Save the Children Mexico and I could hear each other over the noise from below. The painted concrete patio where teachers lead students in experiential learning was beneath us and the sounds of preschoolers moving, counting and singing ricocheted up into the office. Amid all of this energy, Rosa shared the very personal details of her life with her granddaughter, Valeria*, and how she has found herself to be a primary caregiver for the four-year-old girl.

Susan: I don’t speak Spanish, nor have an ear for languages.  I gesture, pantomime, demonstrate and rely on our local staff to help when I’m on assignment.  I had asked Rosa to directly look into the eyes of her 4-year-old granddaughter.

Claire: As I listened to Rosa talk about her family, it became clear that she is a central figure holding many people together. She lives with her husband and son and daughter, both of whom have children of their own. Due to tensions between different members of the family, Rosa is a person who everyone can talk to. She sees the difficulties on both sides of the disputes. It sounded like her role could be tiring at times. She admitted that Valeria’s tantrums could make her feel desperate, but she also says she knows that they are a result of Valeria missing her mother, who no longer lives with her. As much as raising Valeria can be hard work, Rosa had endless stories about how intelligent and creative her granddaughter is. When I lost my words searching for a question, Rosa volunteered the story of her trip to the theater with Valeria. Valeria could repeat the song from the performance by heart after only hearing it once. And while Rosa’s speech was even throughout our conversation, it became energetic and expressive when she told me about Valeria’s drawings. It is obvious that she is amazed by her granddaughter’s imagination.

After our conversation, Rosa descended the stairs to join Susan on the school’s main level. They found a corner among the cacophony to take the tender portrait of the grandmother and granddaughter.

Susan:  Through talking about her experiences in the interview and seeing the photos on the back of my camera, Rosa was emotional, in a positive way, overwhelmed by her love of her granddaughter. It was a touching experience to witness the love they shared. I had photographed her heart.

*Name has been changed for protection.

Background:

Valeria attends preschool in a rough neighborhood in Mexico City that is fraught with violence, drug gangs, and addiction. Save the Children’s HEART program has helped children in this community cope with their stress, anxiety, fears and anger from being exposed to these activities.

About HEART:
HEART (Healing and Education through the ARTs) uses the arts to help children affected by serious or chronic stress from their life circumstances of poverty, violence or other traumatic events. Through painting, music, drama, and other art forms, HEART helps children find new ways to share their feelings and fears, so they can express themselves in a safe environment with trusted adults and peers, and thrive in the classroom. When children share their feelings they begin the healing process.
Save the Children launched HEART in Mexico in 2016. In the first year of operation, HEART reached nearly 8,000 children affected by poverty, violence and migration in 5 provinces: Baja California, Chiapas, Mexico City, Oaxaca and Puebla. The education program is integrated into Save the Children’s programs existing school curriculums for children, including programs at preschools, early primary schools, child and youth centers, and summer programs, as well as migration prevention programs for children and teenagers.
Save the Children has operated in Mexico since 1973. Today, Save the Children serves children in 18 of Mexico’s 32 states, giving kids a healthy start, an opportunity to learn and protection from harm.