Support Abeona — Support the Children of New Orleans!

Paul and I sent a letter out to family and friends at the holidays talking about Abeona House. I’m copying parts of that letter here. We are eager for support towards a variety of Abeona initiatives. There are Reggio-related equipment and resources needed for our classrooms, teaching tools needed to follow Reggio documentation and community learning (things like a digital camera), and funds needed for our hardship assistance program (which subsidizes needy families and allows us to continue to serve a range of incomes on a sliding scale). Should you, your family, or an organization you are involved with be interested in making a donation, providing resources, or holding a fundraiser, please contact us or Abeona House for more information. Please be a part of our magical space!

The story of Abeona, as experienced by Paul and I:

When we returned post-Katrina to find that the quality childcare we had depended on was no longer available, we decided to join other parents to explore other options. These efforts lead to the founding of Abeona House in November 2005. It took us almost a year of work to open. Parent volunteers gave nearly 2,000 hours and contributed over $30,000 in no-interest loans to finance its start. In September 2006, Abeona opened with a full roster of 32 enrolled children (age 6 weeks to 5 yrs) and a waitlist of 60 and growing. Paul and I remain deeply involved with the school; Paul is the President of the Board of Trustees and I volunteer each week.

The Abeona House Child Discovery Center is a non-profit, parent-led organization that arose out of the need for high-quality childcare in post-Katrina New Orleans. Named after the Roman Goddess Abeona, who watches over children when they leave their mother’s care, it is the only center in the city that uses the Reggio-Emilia early education philosophy to guide its programming. Like Abeona House, the Reggio approach was borne out of community response to disaster. After World War II, citizens of the town of Reggio nell’Emilia, Italy, decided to use the remnants of destroyed buildings to create a school. Being dissatisfied with the current state-run early childhood programs, the philosophy grew out of a desire to create an environment where children could acquire skills of critical thinking and collaboration essential to rebuilding a society. At Abeona House, we honor this philosophy and strive to create a learning, nurturing environment that respects the individuality of each child, encourages parental involvement and appropriately rewards teachers and staff.

Abeona fills a critical niche in New Orleans as a supportive learning community that provides quality childcare at a sliding cost scale. Like Paul and I, many of the other Abeona families are “on the edge” – financially and emotionally – with our decision to stay in New Orleans. Participation in the creation of Abeona has given us grounding and a sense of community that we lost after the storm. The school’s holistic approach is a needed refuge from the harsh realities of life in our post-Katrina world. All of us experienced displacement; many are rebuilding destroyed homes. Most of us work in the social service sector – at local nonprofits, schools and hospitals, and several are struggling small business owners. Even members our teaching staff – an incredible group of dedicated professionals with talents and experience in special education, early childhood development, preschool art and music, and bilingual education – still live in trailers. Everyone involved with Abeona represents a family dedicated to children, education, and building a better community.

Paul and I write all this to express to you how important Abeona is and to implore for your help. Abeona House is at a critical juncture. The months of loss and costs of rebuilding have tapped our community resources. Survival means reaching out. As you participate in your workplaces, schools, churches, book clubs, parent groups, and volunteer positions, please keep Abeona in your hearts and minds. You can help us with a sponsorship, fundraiser, or by making a donation. Please help us create a foundation for quality, affordable early education in New Orleans.