There’s nothing like a shared Thanksgiving table to learn about the rewards of sharing and diversity. Over a meal with families and teachers, our children at the Mother Hale Learning Center were immersed in lessons that reflected the values of Hale House’s founder, Mother Clara Hale, who opened her own home for those in need and welcomed all children as her own. To top it off, they enjoyed an apple crisp which was cooked by some of the preschoolers!
This celebration of shared values and great food happened during our Harvest Fest, where the children – ages 6 months to 5 years – dressed up in costumes, sang Thanksgiving songs, and shared a Thanksgiving meal with their families and teachers.
With the Learning Center, Mother Hale created a safe haven in Harlem at a time when the vibrant neighborhood had been struck hard by drug addiction and the emerging AIDS epidemic. Thousands of children were left without homes, care, or education. The neighborhood has recovered from the worst of the crisis, but the debilitating levels of poverty which both led to and resulted from the epidemics of the 80s remain for many families.
Even as the wellbeing of families in Harlem improves, thanks in great part to the consistent support of our donors and volunteers, we continue to provide relief to the families in crisis. The Mother Hale Learning Center remains the only place in the neighborhood to offer care for children as young as six months. Parents are freed to go to work knowing that their children are safe and supported in an enriching learning environment. Vouchers ensure that very low-income families and homeless parents have access to this service who would not otherwise be able to afford quality childcare or early childhood education.
As a new member of the Sheltering Arms network of programs, the Mother Hale Learning Center now also benefits from a broad range of expertise and support, including mental health interventions for children who have experienced trauma and workshops for parents to help them achieve their own professional goals, empowering them to be the best advocates for their children.
“The Mother Hale Learning Center is the only place I could find in our neighborhood that would accept children my son’s age,” says Imani, a single mother who worried about her job security because she had to bring her infant son to work with her. “I had no one else I could turn to. There were some family day cares in people’s homes, but I love the teachers here. The children aren’t just cared for, they are learning to read and count so they are ready to start school like the other children.”
By welcoming the Mother Hale Learning Center into our network of Early Childhood programming, we are one step closer to making sure every mother and every parent has the support and opportunity to build the kind of future Mother Hale imagined for her community.