Three weeks have passed since Palabra de Vida en Acción opened its doors for the first time to the children of the community. A formal process that started almost a year ago is finally finished and running.
The child development center is located at the Baptist Church Palabra de Vida. The church first heard about Compassion through a relative of the pastor.
Everything started by seeking God’s guidance — both the church and Compassion Nicaragua staff prayed. After a few months of prayer and talking to the church leaders about the vision and how Compassion works, the church sent a partnership request to open a child development center.
Daniel Hidalgo, the Compassion Nicaragua partnership facilitator who works as the link between the country office and the church partners says, “This [prayer] is the most important. There are many churches and much need, and we pray for God’s guidance to find the best partner.”
The churches that we partner with must fulfill some requirements, such as:
- being part of an evangelical denomination
- having a children’s ministry
- having good church facilities to host children
- having personnel to teach and care for the children
“There are three documents that help us make a decision: potential child development center profile, sponsorship request, and church documentation. During the site visit, we make sure the written information coincides with the community’s reality.
“Another reason to choose a church partner is that the church has an established children’s ministry. Compassion International does not pioneer a ministry. An existing ministry is a guarantee that the church has a vision to work with children and has some experience in that area.
“Another criteria is church leadership. We make sure that the pastor and leaders inspire passion to the church in general regarding children’s work.”
A few months later, Palabra de Vida received a letter of acceptance.
A few site visits were done by Daniel to further elaborate on the meaning of the work in partnership with Compassion, and to make sure the church had the right conditions to host all of the children.
The visits included talking to some church leaders and conducting home/community visits in order to determine which kids were going to be registered. This is a long process that goes back and forth between the potential church partner and our country office.
Different forms were filled out, explaining the church’s vision about the work with children, and giving information about the neighborhood and the town in general. The purpose of opening a child development center was also stated in the documents.
During this process, the pastor and church leaders asked the Lord’s guidance to place the right people in the right positions in the child development center.
The list of candidates included people who have been working with children in the church’s small groups, have a good testimony, are a church member, are baptized, and have a love to work with kids.
This is how the church committee, leadership team, teachers, maintenance, cook and security people were chosen. This group receives an offering for the work they do.
However, there is another group of volunteers, one per classroom, that this church has established to help teachers during the classes. All of them are part of the church youth group and could be part of the staff in the future as the center grows.
After the first meetings with the leadership, training began. The very first training class was on how to fill out new case studies, which contains all of the child information.
The leadership team of the center and teachers attended that training to have a better understanding of the requirements and because each of them was going to visit homes to fill out the forms with the families.
Then the leadership team was trained in finances, curriculum, programs and the opening of the center’s account.
Next, to let the community know about the center, door-to-door visits were done by the church staff. During the visits, they explained to the people what the child development center was about, and it was well-received by the neighbors.
José, the center director, explains,
“The registration process was facilitated by the fact that many of the registered children attend the church’s small group, some are from the neighborhood, and other children are from the church so we know their home conditions.
“We have Christian children and children from different religious backgrounds. One-hundred and fifty children were required to start the center, 50 percent from the church and 50 percent from the neighborhood.
“As a church we did an exception and registered 40 percent from the church and the rest from the neighborhood because of the need of many children out there.”
Once the new case studies were filled out for all the registered children, the children were called to have their picture taken to include in the Child Packets. The development center then held a first meeting with parents of registered children so parents could clear up their questions and doubts.
Then, dates were arranged to begin with the classes. Inauguration came and classes started.
The first week was an experience with lots of excitement and getting to know the children. A schedule suitable for everyone for the following weeks was planned.
An older child development center helped Palabra de Vida en Acción in their beginning, which helped the new child development center avoid many mistakes.
“They were our model. We exchanged visits to see the work in the different areas of the center. They facilitated a lot of information that helped us to have an idea of the everyday activities and to do well in our first reports. Our goal is to do a good job and the reason why we looked for help in another center.”
Although Palabra de Vida en Acción recently opened, José feels:
“This work is worthy because we do it in love for the children and because there is a spiritual, economic, emotional and cognitive need in the children and their families.
“Our vision is to see children changed and that makes the effort valuable, and we will soon see the impact of this work.
“Our dream is to see the next generation lack nothing. We want the next generation and every child that comes to the center to impact their families.
“It has been a blessing to open our center. The church is supporting the vision. There is more concern for childhood, and we’re seeing the needs the children have, and people in the community understand that we’re now here.
“Parents’ attendance to church is beginning to be seen. There are some children that are not from our church, but have invited their parents to come to the services.
“We are beginning to see the fruits. We give the glory to God, that’s where we are pointing, to be a church for the family.
“I recommend Compassion for other churches because there is a need in the children of our communities and because of the integral education they receive here.”