Imagine being stopped by a crying mom who tells you she has to tie up her toddler and tape his mouth so he can’t yell — just so you can go to work. What would you do?
When it happened to Andrea Perez, she took action. Perez was visiting Nicaragua at the time, helping her brother Alejandro with his pet project, a school for poor teens in a rural area of the country. After being confronted by the woman, Perez decided to start a day care so women like that could have a safe place to leave their children while they worked
“She would tie him to the chair, and leave the door locked with tape over his mouth,” Perez said. “It wasn’t because she wanted to mistreat the child, but she needed to go to work. It was the only option that she had.”
The daycare was named after her grandmother, Anita Holmann, and is located in her grandmother’s house. When her grandmother passed away, Perez asked her grandfather if they could use the house and he said yes.
It’s hard enough to start a business as an adult, but Perez is still a teen. She will be a senior at Gulliver Prep next year. However, after helping her brother in his community work, she already has learned how to marshal resources to accomplish things.
“I started noticing the women had trouble with their kids,” Perez said. “The ones that weren’t old enough to go to school and they didn’t have a place to leave them.
It took a little while to get her dream daycare up and running. First, she needed to raise money and she needed to find a place to house the daycare. She started an errand service to raise the money.
“I made up a business card with my name on it. I handed it out the card around the street and the school,” Perez said.
“It started to make a good amount of money and I thought maybe the daycare can actually happen,” she said.
Once she secured the house, she was able to open the center with help of friends and family.
“I had the money and I had the house. I got donors,” she said. “I have a lot of family and friends. They match every dollar I make and with that, I have enough money.”
The daycare was established in July 2011 and has 60-65 children. They are allowed to have up to 100. The school has two teachers and plans call for hiring a third.
Perez and her friends earn $600 or so a month with the errand service. Coupled with income from funds from donors who match her earnings, the free daycare became a reality. If there are shortfalls, her grandfather steps in to help.
Opening the daycare is just the first project.
“I’m planning, but right now I’m too young to start it, an orphanage,” Perez said.
The orphanage concept came about when two children were dropped off and then the parents disappeared without leaving contact information. One of the teachers is taking care of the children but can’t afford the additional costs without help. Perez said she needs more time to figure out what to do about the situation.
Because of her commitment to the children, Perez has been honored with a plaque from the Ministry of Family in Nicaragua.
For more information, check out the Anita Holmann Day Care Center in Nicaragua page on Facebook.