Casa de los Ángeles Graduation 2013
By Rina Sundahl
On August 15, when you entered the doors of Casa de los Ángeles, there was festive music, white and gold balloons, beautiful decorations of birds hanging everywhere, women dressed very elegantly in dresses with intricate hairstyles and dozens of people sitting on steps forming an audience. There was an air of much anticipation and excitement. Looking past the crowd of formally dressed audience members, you saw the stars of the night: 15 children in dresses and suits sitting in a line of chairs draped with silver material, all bright-eyed and ready for kindergarten.
Many of these children have been cared for at Casa de los Ángeles since they were very small. After years of building deep relationships with each other and with their teachers and enjoying the attention of abundant volunteers, we honored their growth with this extravagant graduation ceremony. Some of the mothers sitting in the audience were sniffling and fingering tissues before the ceremony even began.
Mind you, Casa de los Ángeles is not just any daycare. It is a vital community for single working mothers who can’t pay for daycare for their children, but are dedicated to ensuring that their children have a healthy early childhood. Instead of locking their children at home while they go to work, they bring the children to this free daycare center, and contribute to the daycare by doing an hour of service every day before or after they go to work. The children receive breakfast and lunch, are taken to play in the park, and lulled to sleep for daily naptime. Almost all of the teachers at the daycare were also mothers who showed exceptional work ethic and were hired. Thus, you have an entire building full of loving, hard-working women tirelessly caring for the little ones. What better environment for the children to be in for the day?
The graduation ceremony began with a warm welcome speech from the founder, Donna Quathamer, expressing her delight to have been able to know their children. Then the children stood up and danced and sang the songs and dances that have been echoing in the daycare patio for months as they rehearsed. “Volaré, volaré, volaré. Por el cielo infinito volaré. Tengo fuerza, tengo alas. Tengo tiempo, tengo ganas, y por eso volaré.” Though the children might not know it, the song rings with hope and promise, and this may have moved more audience members to tears while they intently pointed their cameras at the children.
Four brave children took turns stepping forward and reciting a poem clearly into a microphone. “Muy chiquitos llegamos de la mano de mama con un poquito de miedo a este querido lugar. Hicimos muchos paseos, trabajamos mucho mas, entonamos mil canciones y aprendimos a jugar. Ya nuestro año ha pasado del querido lugar, ya somos niños mas grandes y nos vamos a estudiar. Hoy que el día ha llegado de decirnos un adios, con un beso y hasta pronto que nacen del corazón.”
Afterward, a mother of one of the graduates stepped forward to give a heartfelt speech thanking everybody at the daycare for all that they provided for her son. Some younger children followed with a lighthearted dance as a way of congratulating their seniors.
Suddenly, devils and crazy people rushed out onto the stage to haphazard music, and there was a crowd of people dancing in the middle. Los Locos! They were all of the staff of the daycare and their children! This silly lighthearted dance lasted for a while to lighten the mood of the celebration, and people were pulled out of the audience to dance with the costumed staff. Which was a perfect segue to the cake! I have never seen a cake so large in my life. Some volunteers and the children of the staff passed out slices to everybody and we were able to enjoy these before saying goodbye to the children and taking leave, hearts and stomachs alike feeling sweet.
Such a strong, vivacious and passionate community is a profoundly positive force in the world, and we should spread this energy as widely as we can. If you are interested in being a part of Casa de los Ángeles by volunteering or donating that is a great idea! You will find all of the necessary information at www.casadelosangeles.org.