Local Nonprofit Of The Month: Jasmin Childcare

Written by: Brady Drake

At Fargo INC! we believe in the importance of non-profits and the good they do for our community. That’s why we are choosing to highlight more of them. Without further-ado, meet our first non-profit of the month, Jasmin Childcare.

Jasmin Childcare is doing good in our community. The multicultural child care center was founded in 2015 (and later became a nonprofit in 2020) in an effort to offer an affordable and more welcoming environment to the children of refugees in the area.

The organization’s founder, Rhoda Elmi, started her childcare program in 2015 after taking a path to entrepreneurship that included stops in Somalia, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Canada and Minneapolis before settling in Fargo. Along the way, she came to the realization that a multicultural childcare environment could be useful and beneficial for children. Elmi responded to the community’s request for an early-intervention program that can help address the barriers new American children and their families faced. As a result, Jasmin Child Care and Preschool was founded.

A solution of early-intervention seemed the best, as it was identified that many children were entering school unprepared and already behind their peers. These children would continue to be behind year after year. Each family has its own story and this childcare center strives to work closely to meet their needs and to provide the right support to prepare their kids to succeed in life and become productive members of our community.

“Another barrier for some kids, such as English language learners, is the limited understanding of American social norms, which can cause challenges in their learning experiences,” said Elmi. “It helps that we are culturally responsive when it comes to teaching these students, for example, using their native language to support learning and social skill development.” “In addition, some of these new American kids who come from refugee backgrounds have lived through immense trauma. “As you can see, the combination of these barriers (language, social skills, cultural understanding, life circumstances) can put them behind in school.”

Elmi, who says she’s always had a passion for working with children, also ran a daycare during her time in Minneapolis. At her new organization, Elmi makes sure to place an importance on not only the cultural education of the children in her program but also on the family that that child is coming from. She says that in the community she is from in Somalia, everyone takes care of the children. So, a lot of the parents that come here expect that the teacher will handle some of the tasks that they need to handle. Elmi and her staff work to help them better understand what is important for them in this regard.

According to a 2015 article by the Grand Forks Herald, North Dakota leads the nation in refugee resettlement per capita. The children and families served at Jasmin Childcare speak many languages at home. Children and their families that come to the center represent over 13 ethnic backgrounds.

“This is like early-intervention,” said Sky Purdin, Director of Development. “It’s pretty normal across the board at any daycare to prepare students to enter school. Kids need to learn social skills and what it’s like to interact in a large group setting, instead of being at home where they only have to interact with a sibling.

Our holistic mission is to provide access to quality affordable childhood education; to support families and community; to strengthen childhood success; to connect and collaborate; and to increase resources which enhance quality of life for all. -Rhoda Elmi

If they don’t have these experiences, they are going to have certain barriers that are going to set them back when all of their peers have already learned these skills. We offer all of that, but we also have language and cultural understanding that maybe other daycares don’t have the same qualifications for.”

According to Elmi and Purdin, one girl in the program, who spoke only her mother tongue when she arrived, was speaking and reading English after only six months in the program. On the other hand, some other students who only originally spoke English also now speak a new language learned at Jasmin Child Care and Preschool.

“My favorite thing to hear from the parents is that their kids are doing well in school,” said Elmi.

What happens when something like this is not available for those in the community that might need it?

Elmi: You would find kids sent to the principal’s office because they weren’t listening to their teachers. However, one underlying issue was due to the communication barrier that existed between teachers and those specific students sent to the principal’s office. For example, if a student does not speak English, and you tell them to sit down, they might not know what you’re saying. My hope is to bridge this gap and help alleviate some of these barriers to give all of our students an opportunity at success.

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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.