The Children's Wellness Center (CWC) will offer inner city Latino/a children (ages 0-12) the chance to develop the cognitive, socio-emotional and physiological foundation to become successful in school--and in life. The CWC will contain three interlocking components: obesity prevention; child development, and family nutrition. It will also encourage self-awareness, cultural pride and self-efficacy. Designed to embrace the "whole" child, the CWC will be a safe haven that affirms the struggles of families who have survived border crossings, violence, crime, racial/linguistic isolation, immigration raids, gang inflicted fear and neighborhood drug use/traffiking. It will be a place where children feel anchored in themselves and are validated for their unique potential--and contributions.
Staffed by bilingual/bicultural professionals, it will be a warm, welcoming environment that meets children where they are and encourages them to explore their identities. It will provide stimulating educational activities for children and families, and educate parents about how children can best learn, grow and thrive. It will offer training in developmental milestones, and strategies to encourage strong growth and development at home. With a commercial kitchen, it will also offer family cooking classes for parents to learn how to use unfamiliar New England produce, education on coupon shopping, exercise classes, Yoga/Zumba, and play activities designed to foster language development, creative thinking, problem-solving and fine/gross motor development. Further, it will offer breastfeeding education and infant massage courses. In addition, it will offer culturally sensitive, trauma-informed counseling, intervention and support for children and family members. Direct linkages will be available to ESOL, GED, citizenship and computer-learning classes offered next door at Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford. Families will enjoy bi-weekly distributions of fresh produce and whole grains from Foodshare, along with access to a mobile farmer's market with discounted prices.
The Children's Wellness Center will enter into collaborative relationships with organizations already addressing different facets of child wellness such as Cooking Matters, My City Kitchen, University of Connecticut Agricultural Extension Program, Windowfarms Garden Project, Wheeler Clinic, PeaceJam, HartBeat Ensemble, Hartford Health Dept., Ct. Children's Medical Center and Knox Parks Foundation. These entities will offer educational, mental health and arts programming in the facility so as to ensure lower costs and avoid duplication of services. With its breadth of scope and diverse partners, the CWC promises to become a cost effective, easily replicable model for children’s wellness in disenfranchised urban communities across the nation.
To be housed in 4,000 sq. feet on the ground floor of a recently renovated factory building, immediately underneath our administrative offices, the facility is easily accessible to public transportation and well known to community residents. The space has abundant sunlight, with large windows for indoor gardening, as well as a multi-purpose room for celebrations and workshops. Cigna has donated 10 brand new laptop computers for children's learning activities. Internet and wi-fi connections are available. The facility has two entrances, and full handicap accessibility. It is located in Parkville, Hartford's most ethnically diverse neighborhood, across the street from the above mentioned city park, with opportunity for year-round, linked programming. A capital campaign of $250,000 is now underway to raise funds for space renovations. Thus far, 64% has been committed.