A Holt-supported free nursery school program in Bogotá, Colombia keeps children safe, provides critical early education, and empowers families to rise above poverty.
Every day, 4-year-old Ian learns about shapes, colors, animals, and practices counting. His favorite part of the day is music class — and he tells his mom each day about the instruments he was introduced to and the songs he learned. His favorite is the guitar, and he loves to sing and make up songs at home.
This is all thanks to the Foundation for the Assistance of Abandoned Children (FANA), a preschool program supported by Holt and the Colombian government, that Ian attends in the Suba neighborhood of Bogotá, Colombia. Many parents in this community dropped out of school early and, without an education, have no choice but to take informal, low-paying positions in factories or farms. Even in two-parent households, both parents must work long hours or multiple jobs to pay for food and rent — leaving no one home to care for their children, and making their children vulnerable to exploitation or dangerous conditions if they bring them to work.
But thanks to FANA, children and families here — like Ian’s — have hope.
A Free Preschool in Bogotá
FANA’s nursery school provides 100 percent free daycare and preschool for 300 children and 240 families in this area, serving children ages 4 months to 4 years old. The youngest babies have caregivers attending to their developmental and nutritional needs, and older children are engaged in foundational education and social-emotional learning. They attend music classes twice a week to support memory, attention and concentration, as well as strengthen children’s creativity and expressive skills. An emphasis on play and experiential learning at FANA supports the healthy development of their bodies and minds, nurturing independence and imagination.
In addition to typical early education, FANA also provides specialized therapeutic supports for children with developmental or cognitive delays, physical challenges, and diagnoses that may affect learning and social functioning. Through individualized speech, occupational and physical therapies — as well as tutoring and educational outings to help children meet developmental milestones — children have the support they need to overcome challenges, and grow to their fullest potential.
Life-Change at FANA
Ian’s mother, Fanny, learned about FANA’s nursery school program during a difficult time in her life. Her oldest child, Helen, was preschool-age. They lived on the edge of poverty, but Fanny had no other childcare and could not work. They struggled on one income and were falling deeper into debt. But then she enrolled Helen in FANA’s free nursery school program.
“FANA changed our lives forever,” she says.
The childcare provided at FANA allowed Fanny to return to work and provide additional income for her family. After a few years, Fanny was able to open her own shop where she sells baby items and school supplies. She and her husband were able to save money and now feel more financially secure. This relieved a lot of stress on the family, empowering them to meet their own needs and rise above poverty.
They also saw the positive impact early education had on both of their children.
The Impact of Early Education
Helen used to be very shy and often clung to her mom. But the preschool gave her confidence and independence. Fanny says she started to do things by herself. She is now an expressive and outgoing 10-year-old. She enjoys singing, dancing and theater, and she isn’t afraid to speak in front of her class.
And now, Fanny gets to watch Ian grow in the same ways — blossoming into a confident and social kid. Both children have a foundational love for school and being with their peers. And through the process, she’s learned how important this preschool education is.
“Early education helps define how kids will be,” Fanny says. “It’s not just teaching, it’s also developing.”
Without the program at FANA, most children — like Helen and Ian — would stay home until age 4 or 5, at which time they would join the often overcrowded and understaffed public school system. But beginning public school at age 4 without any prior exposure to early education can be overwhelming and discouraging for young children, setting them back just as they begin their education journey.
But instead, with support from Holt sponsors and donors, hundreds of young children in Bogotá are receiving the early foundation of education that they need to thrive. And the children aren’t the only ones.
“Early education helps define how kids will be. It’s not just teaching, it’s also developing.”Fanny, mother of children who attend FANA
Parents of children at the nursery school are also enrolled in workshops that explore healthy child development, nutrition and safety. With an emphasis on violence and abuse prevention, parents learn non-violent conflict resolution skills and gain tools to manage challenging behaviors while strengthening relationships with their children.
With the care and generosity of Holt donors, FANA is keeping vulnerable families together by giving them the resources they need, and children like Ian and Helen can thrive in a safe, nurturing and enriching environment.
Malia Robello, MSW | Program Manager, Haiti, Colombia, Ethiopia & Uganda
Help Children & Families in Colombia
Colombia has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in Latin America, and many children live with young single mothers who struggle to meet their needs. Colombia has a long history of crime and violence, which makes life dangerous for children. Your gift will help a child or family in Colombia in greatest need.