For Bayan Sindi, opening up a daycare in her home was an easy choice. The former Kurdish refugee, who emigrated in 1991, grew up in a large family in Iraq. By operating a daycare at home in Annandale, she could watch over her own children and not have to interact much with others using her then-limited English skills.
Several years later, Sindi not only has her own daycare, but she recently completed her infant and toddler certificate at Northern Virginia Community College through the use of a scholarship given by Infant/Toddler Family Day Care of Northern Virginia, a Fairfax-based nonprofit. Although Sindi applies the material she learned in class to her daycare, she hopes to earn someday an associate’s degree as well.
"It made me so happy to put the clothes on, and they call our names," Sindi said of the cap and grown and of Northern Virginia Community College’s commencement ceremony held recently.
Sindi is one of five Northern Virginians who received a scholarship by Infant/Toddler Day Care of Northern Virginia, to pursue an infant and toddler certificate at Northern Virginia Community College. The scholarship recipients, all immigrants, completed a two-year, six-class course of study in child development, mentoring, studies in inclusion, observation techniques and international communication.
By learning these skills, the recipients will be better able to develop their children’s self-esteem and language acquisition, as well as enable their curiosity and empathy, according to Infant/Toddler Day Care executive director Ileene Hoffman.
The recipients will also act as mentors to prospective child care providers associated with Infant/Toddler Day Care. The organization itself has a network of 115 family child care providers throughout the region.
"These women hungered for it," said Hoffman of the education the providers had received. "They didn’t know they were hungry for it until they took their first bite."
Sindi had been approved by Fairfax County to operate a daycare in her home in 1993, but she couldn’t find any families to support the daycare. A friend then directed her to Infant/Toddler Day Care, where she took a class on operating a mixed-ages daycare in the home.
When Infant/Toddler Day Care suggested that she take a class at the community college, she was hesitant at first, but then agreed.
"In my country … we just finished high school. We had no chance," Sindi said.
Like the other scholarship recipients, Sindi’s had a busy daytime routine. For over two years, the recipients worked all day, made dinner, drove or carpooled with fellow students to school, went to class, completed their homework, slept and started the routine all over again the next day.
"It was juggling all those balls that they did so well," Hoffman said.
With the help of Prof. Eula Miller, the recipients graduated last week during a ceremony held at George Mason University’s Patriot Center.
"It was so good, and we really enjoyed it," said Sindi’s husband Mohamed Sindi. "Bayan was happy, so we all were happy."
Sindi said she has been able to apply what she’s learned to work. Besides understanding the emotional and social aspects of child development, she teaches her children the alphabet and numbers. They also do crafts and learn about sharing.
"We’re like school," Sindi said. Her husband agreed.
"You have to make sure they understand that you care about them, that they’re safe," said Mohamed Sindi.
The Infant/Toddler Day Care will help the five continue their education further, but they also want to start a new class of child care providers/mentors.
"I think the classes, for all of them, have helped them in their self-confidence," said Wynne Busman.