Written by the Saving Moses NightCare Manager.
Have you ever spent time with someone who is an incredibly hard worker? A person who makes you tired just to watch because of their dedication to what they’re doing? I lived with nearly 30 of them for a couple of weeks.
Let me back up a little and explain.
I recently took a trip to our centers in Cambodia in order to understand more fully the ins and outs of the NightCare program. Instead of observing the centers then staying at a hotel, I stayed in each of the 5 centers for 1 or 2 days to get the full experience of being there and walking alongside the babies and toddlers’ experience.
The nannies in the centers were welcoming and inviting, even when most often we didn’t share much language in common. We did a lot of miming and piecing of English words together to move through the flow of the program. I would call myself decently experienced in the flow of childcare – I’ve been a nanny, a babysitter, a VBS teacher, a Foster Care worker, and had many more roles with children. However, nothing quite prepared me for the arrival of 20 to 35 babies and toddlers from 0 to 5.
With dinner for the children already simmering on the stove, the centers freshly cleaned, and pajamas laundered (all of which has been done by the nannies as well), the children arrive. They are warmly greeted and rounded together for bath time. Ever bathed a squirmy baby? How about 25 in a row? That’s what the nannies do as they get the babies clean and in fresh diapers and pajamas – whisking the dirty clothes worn to the center away to be washed.
As our kiddos come out freshly clean and smelling of baby powder, their hair is brushed, and they can finally access what they’ve been waiting for: all the toys. They thrive during playtime overseen by nannies – their creativity showing through their creations with blocks, their imagination showing through cooking plastic food, their humor showing through plays conducted with stuffed animals.
The nannies laugh along, break up squabbles peacefully, feed babies, and cuddle toddlers all at once. Their patience remains constant despite the heat and among a chorus of 30 tiny voices adding music to the center.
Then comes dinner time. Tiny toddler hands help to put away all of the toys alongside the nannies. All of the kiddos form a circle in the kitchen with full bowls of food prepared for them, for many of them the main meal that they’ve been looking forward to. For those too little to feed themselves, nannies sit next to them, blowing carefully on the hot food before feeding eager mouths.
Dinner is over, and the center embraces circle time. All of the kiddos form a circle in the main room with the nannies among them, usually holding babies while toddlers sit in their laps. They lead the songs, and the toddlers follow eagerly – dancing along with the motions, their little voices singing loudly and enthusiastically. The nannies haven’t let their spirits dip for a moment, haven’t taken a moment of pause or rest all night, and still sing eagerly – conducting all of the motions with contagious eagerness.
As circle time continues, little eyes start to droop. Full bellies, a safe place, familiar faces, and songs – a lot of the babies and toddlers are ready for rest. For some, it’s a last burst of energy to fight sleep, which is met with kindness and a calm demeanor by their caregivers. It’s time for the last little sweet snack of the evening – fresh fruit. No matter the level of energy, all toddlers circle up for this treat as the babies are carried up to bed with a last bottle.
Somehow, and I’m still not able to fully understand how, the nannies get all of the babies and toddlers to relax and lay down on their mattresses and begin to close their small eyes. By what can only be a miracle, 30 little ones, asleep all at the same time.
The night isn’t over yet – the nannies take shifts with the kiddos, watching over them and soothing them while they take turns eating dinner. Toddler dishes and babies’ bottles are all washed and put away, the center is swept, the tiny clothes are taken from the washer and laid to dry.
As a newbie, I am thoroughly exhausted. The nannies, though, are still full of grace and hunger for knowledge. They take a time of devotion, prayer, or singing. Some of them leave time to study English or study for their exams. We have pronunciation lessons, make paper cranes together, share pictures of family and friends and homes.
Soon enough, the day takes its toll – we all head to bed. The nannies head to sleep alongside the kiddos. Ready, no matter what hour, to meet the needs of the babies and toddlers next to them.
5 a.m. comes much sooner than seems possible – and it’s time to get breakfast ready before the babies awake at 5:30. When they do, they are met with another quick bath and a change into their freshly clean clothes. A hot breakfast waits for them, making sure that they will face the day ahead well. Moms, dads, and siblings arrive to pick up their little loved ones. Nannies greet them warmly and wave goodbye to the kiddos – knowing that they will see them soon and trusting that they have loved them well.
A final clean up – washing the dishes, mopping the center, washing the pajamas for the next night. There is hardly a moment to stop. Many of the nannies have a bit of breakfast, get ready for the day themselves, and head to school or to neighborhoods to pass the word of NightCare to those who need it and to encourage the moms of the babies in the program.
These women seldom stop. They work with diligence and intention and never without a tone of patience and love for the babies and toddlers they serve. Have you spent time with someone incredibly hardworking – someone so dedicated? I have, and I’m better for it.