While in Washington, DC this past week, I decided to check on the day care center US Kids I helped create 25 years ago. I walked in the front door and told the lady behind the desk that I was one of the founders of US Kids and wanted to take a look around and see how everything was going today.
To my surprise, I was greeted with a big hug and the Director of the center was called to show me around. As we walked around the center, more hugs were to come and tears welled in my eyes.
In the infant section, I remembered putting the aquarium in at crawling eye height, setting the sleeping section apart with dimmer lights, building the diaper changing area so the “nappies” would actually fit in the cubby holes and be easily reachable by the caregivers, and the creating the private area for mother’s to nurse their babies during the day. All of that was well thought out since I had already given birth to my daughter Sarah who went to the World Bank day care center and was pregnant with Rachel who is 25 this year.
Then we went downstairs to the toddlers’ rooms. There I remember creating the art area where you could just hose off the floor into a drain following activities, and the mini-door toilets so that teachers could observe un-noticed, and looked for the kitchen I had so “creatively” set up so that the kids could see the cookies baking but not actually get their “hands burnt” on the stove. Ok so that idea didn’t stand the test of time – the viewing section had been closed off.
However, the “great room” remained as the “piece de la resistance” – a large playroom that offered space for tricycles to roam around a path and games to be played that included balls and fun stuff. I was so happy to see that room had survived.
For almost 25 years I have had the architectural drawings and the plaque honoring my contribution sitting on various walls in various homes where I have hung my hat. My colleague, who was with me on this visit, surprised that I had actually built this center in the first place, said “Emily, this is probably one of your greatest achievements”. There are nearly 100 kids and 1000’s of alumni who have been part of US Kids. Parents working in the nearby Government agencies have been able to stay at work and have their children nearby.
Thanks goes to Former Secretary Nicholas F Brady who helped make this center possible, and Anna Davis who was the instigation and creative mind behind the endeavor. I remember standing with my daughters and Secretary Brady as we made a pitch to Government employees to contribute to the scholarship fund through the United Way.
What needs to happen now is a fundraising effort to pay for renovation of the center, badly in need of an overhaul after 25 years. With such a dedicated staff that is willing to help me, I will find a way to renovate and rejuvenate something I started so long ago, way before day care centers we commonplace in the US Government. That would be double the reward.