The Daycare Center for Children at Risk opened its doors in Coxen Hole to the public with an inauguration ceremony on March 8. The goal of the center is to provide a place where children can go to receive child care and education, away from the dangers of the street, such as car accidents, robbery, sexual abuse or exploitation, drugs, or truancy. The Center is guided by the Law of Children and Adolescence, Article 11 (Codigo de la Ninez y la Adolescencia), and UNICEF, that children have the right to an education, and a secure and healthy environment.
The project targets children who spend time on the streets begging, selling, or stealing, particularly in major tourist areas, such as the streets of Willy Warren, and near the Port of Roatan cruise ship dock. According to Vivian Tugliani, a key organizer in creation of the project and now Director of the Center, there have been reports of child vendors stealing from the cruise ship passengers. “Now the problem is not only around the cruise ship area,” said Tugliani, “It extends to Petrosun, Plaza Mar, and not only on the cruise ship days.” Chief of Police Joe Solomon, who has been in service on Roatan for 12 years, said, “In my years here I have seen many problematic children grow up to become our future criminals. Just look at the prison. We have to focus our attention on the children.”
According to Tugliani, meetings to discuss the issue began 12 years ago between herself, police chief Joe Soloman, and Dawn Hyde, now Port of Roatan customer service manager; and four years ago with vice mayor Delzie Rosales. “We always came to a dead end,” said Tugliani, “until now. We came to a dead end because the authorities did not want to help.” Said Solomon, “For many years we have had the plan, design, house rental opportunity and goals. There just wasn’t enough interest in the municipal. With the new administration, we are finally getting things done.” According to Tugliani, the center now has the support of the Municipal and the Preventative Police, who will be responsible for bringing children to the Center.
According to Tugliani, mayor Julio Galindo approached her for help with the issue before the elections. Helping the islands’ children was a key issue in Galindo’s campaign rhetoric, addressing the Center in his inauguration speech. Marion Lindo, Director of the Women’s Municipal Office (Oficina Municipal de la Mujer), was instrumental in finding an appropriate space to rent. Tugliani also immediately started the process of obtaining permission from the Honduran Family Care Services (Instituto Hondureno de la Ninez y la Familia (IHNFA)), where she is local Director. Tugliani also served as President of the Consejo de Apoyo Municipal de la Niñez since 2008.
The Center is funded by the Municipality of Roatan, officially a public municipal project opened by the municipality to cover a need to protect the children of Roatan. As the Center does have non-profit status, the Center may also receive funds from outside sources.
The Center is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. As public schools have two shifts, one in the morning from 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and another in the afternoon from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., the children who attend school in the morning will be in the daycare in the afternoon and vice versa. The Center has capacity to house 80 children and reports receiving between 8 and 15 children a day.
The Center is free, and accepts boys from 5 to 12 years old, and girls from 5 to 14 years old. This is what differentiates the center from the original Roatan Daycare Center in Coxen Hole, which receives children from 2 to 6 years old, who are electively brought by their parents, and who pay a nominal fee for services. Tugliani also started the Roatan Daycare Center with Mrs. Eloise Vincent.
The Center is working with a Social Worker and Psychologist of IHNFA to create a file of each child, visit their homes and schools, and speak to parents and teachers to encourage the children’s school attendance. The center has secured volunteers to teach religion, Tae Kwon Do, and painting, and has already received its first group of volunteers from Child Sponsorship International. “Many locals and foreigners have been calling saying that they want to volunteer,” said Tugliani.
Future plans for the Center include a public day care for working mothers and a night care facility for mothers who attend night school. Center employees plan to keep communication with the schools to make sure the children go from the Center to their school and vice versa. They also plan to visit the homes of the children attending the Center to conduct a study on children’s needs and how to help improve home life. [/private]