Our history of growth and transformation has always been a result of the growing and valued need for bilingual early to school age care and education in the Berkeley, the Bay Area and in California. BAHIA was first established as Project VIDA in 1975 in a small residential duplex with an initial enrollment of 20 children. VIDA’s quality care for children ages 3 to 5 years quickly outgrew its first home due in large part to fulfilling a long overdue need of providing quality bilingual care to young children in Berkeley. Initial and startup funding was primarily from federal sources that were administered through the City of Berkeley and the then, Community Action Agency.
In 1978, BAHIA was awarded a contract from the California Department of Education, Child Development Division, to provide child care services to lower-income families, enabling BAHIA to expand services to care for up to 49 children. In this same year, Project VIDA moved into the James Kenney Park child care facility, a city-owned site, which was shared with a school-age program. Although program distinctions were continuously negotiated and patiently endured, inevitable confusion with regards to different age groups being served (5 to 12 year olds), hours of operation and differences in philosophy arose. After three years, the advantage of being a lease-free tenant with the school-age group became less and less attractive, as well as a mutual disadvantage for both programs given our different age groups, schedules and growing needs to serve additional children and families. In 1979, BAHIA Board of Directors prevailed and succeeded in raising $167,243 from state, federal and local resources to acquire an undeveloped lot and obtain bungalows (to be renovated) from the Berkeley Unified School District. The design and construction of Centro VIDA's current site, which officially opened its doors in 1982, was a combined effort of the love and dedication of parents, staff and the BAHIA Board.
In 1983, BAHIA purchased an empty lot adjacent to Centro VIDA in order to house a Toddler program. Although the Toddler classroom would not begin operation until September 1985, word of mouth increased the waiting list to over 200 children for just 16 available slots! By increasing a new toddler classroom, enclosing an outdoor patio into a classroom and outdoor play areas, Centro VIDA was able to provide care for 64 children ages 2 to 5 years. Our story of growth and quality programming does not stop there!
In our 13th year of operation, the California Department of Education opened requests for proposals to administer the subsidized school-age program where we were once housed. After a competitive bidding process, BAHIA was awarded the permanent contract to administer the school-age program at the James Kenney Park Child Care facility. Bahia School Age Program officially opened for operation in November 1988 to provide child care for 53 children ages 5 to 12 years. Over the years, BAHIA’s focus on providing bilingual care and education has become recognized on a local, state and national level as an organization that promotes children’s learning and the idea that it takes a community to raise children. In 2012, BAHIA was recognized by the Latino Community Foundation, with the Leading for Change Award. In 1996, BAHIA, Inc. received a La Promesa Award from the National Latino Children’s Institute and was given the opportunity to share our growth and commitment to the community as a Latino non-profit with others in the field at the NLCI Conference in Washington, DC. In 1998, BAHIA received the Group Achievement Award from the Berkeley Community Fund. In 2003 BAHIA’s programs were featured in “Serving Biracial & Multiethnic Children and their Families”, a video produced by the Childcare Health Program.
Today, BAHIA is still the only Latino nonprofit providing full-time, private, non-profit, bilingual (Spanish-English) program in Berkeley, addressing the city’s needs by providing a bilingual, culturally diverse child care center for lower-income, working families and student parents. Our programs continue to nurture the growth of family-parent involvement and collaboration. Our caring bilingual programs and staff enable BAHIA, Inc. to continue to provide families with high quality, nurturing, bilingual learning environments where children grow to become successful lifelong learners.