11th Annual Día de los Niños Celebration
by A. David Dahmer
“In Latin America and some European countries, we have established El Día de los Niños as a day of celebration for the kids. It's a very well-known celebration in our countries and we didn't have that here in the United States 11 years ago,” says Fabiola Hamdan, co-chair of this year's El Día de los Niños event. “So, we wanted to bring that piece of culture and revive it here. At the same time, when we are celebrating our kids we really want to give parents the opportunity to gain resources and information that might not be readily available to them due to language and cultural barriers. We know that if parents are doing well and have resources, the kids are going to be doing well.”
The 11th Annual El Día de los Niños (The Day of the Children) Celebration is an amazing event that continues to grow year after year. For Latino immigrants and community members, it's a wonderful one-stop shop to get many of the important resources and information they need to help raise their children. For the children, it's a day of frolicking and fun and learning about their culture.
“Every year, we try to bring something new to the event and this year we are going to be having MATC doing some workshops for admissions and DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] for young adults who want to continue their higher education,” Hamdan says. “We still will have all of the entertainment for kids, dance groups, etc.”
There will be food, information booths for families, children's dances, games, activities for children, and once again this year will have the "parade of nations" featuring children displaying their cultural heritage.
“It's important to keep our culture alive and by celebrating we are really embracing our culture and customs in the Latino community,” Hamdan says. “It's also a great opportunity for our local authorities and community members to come and spend time with your Latino families.”
The Latino Children and Families Council is once again sponsoring the event. Parents can come and get an ID for their kids through the LifeTouch. There will be information on FoodShare and the Madison Metropolitan School District will have information on their kindergarten program. “Sometimes they have trouble getting Latinos registered during the normal hours so this will be a big help,” Hamdan says. “
Centro Hispano, the Madison Public Library, Madison Gas & Electric, Kids Coalition, and many agencies will have information booths with Spanish-speaking people standing by to assist.
“The Latino Academy [of Workforce Development] and their volunteers do a wonderful job providing the food at the event,” Hamdan says. “They do everything. All of the food you will eat there will be coordinated by Baltazar [De Anda] and the Latino Academy.”
Amigos en Azul, a grassroots police organization comprised of City of Madison police officers dedicated to dissolving cultural barriers, building partnerships, and opening lines of communication between the Latino community in Dane County and the Madison Police Department, will be at the event. Amigos officers regularly attend community events and provide information to the Latino community on police resources.
“Sometimes law enforcement in different Latin American countries are not really seen as friendly, but here in Madison we really want to emphasize that the police department is here to protect us and to make a safe environment for us,” Hamdan says. “The atmosphere of El Dia de los Ninos really allows for good conversations and connections to happen.”
There will be more than 40 agencies and service providers represented at El Dia de los Ninos. “They will be there to answer questions from people and find out what they need,” Hamdan says. “Nowadays, especially when we have a lot of budget cuts and resources are getting less, it's time for all of service providers to work together to really do more things — especially in our communities of color.
Over the years, El Día de los Niños has been held at the Labor Temple, the Union Soccer Club in Oregon, and the Boys & Girls Club on Jenewein Street but seems to have found a good home at the Goodman Community Center on Madison’s east side.
“We really like having it at Goodman. It's a nice place on the east side,” Hamdan says. “Most people tend to believe that Latinos are only on the south side but that is just not the case. We are all over the place — why not bring them to the east side? It's been working very well having it over there. Goodman has opened their arms to us.”
About 100 volunteers help with everything from supervising the bouncy house to making popcorn. Families, community organizations, high school and university students all come out to make El Dia de los Niños special for children. “Our volunteers are simply amazing in how much they help us,” Hamdan says. “It's so nice to have them.”
El Día de los Niños has its roots in Latin America, although it is also celebrated in Asian and European countries. It is a worldwide celebration of the child and family. This day recognizes children, pays homage to their importance in society, and endorses their well-being.
“Every year, it's like a wedding as we do all of this preparation for the event,” Hamdan says. “I hope we can partner with other organizations (in the future) to do this event. We're about five or six people coordinating this event every year and we would love more help. The Latino population just continues to grow and we would love to see the event continue to get bigger and better every year.”
The 11th Annual El Día de los Niños Celebration will be held Saturday, May 3, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Goodman Community Center: 149 Waubesa St.
For more information, contact Fabiola Hamdan at (608)246-2967 or Hamdan@countyofdane.com.