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From Gambia to Harrisburg-region, child care founder connects across cultures 

From Gambia to Harrisburg-region, child care founder connects across cultures 

  • Haddy Saho made affordability — especially for fellow immigrant families — a priority when launching HMC Child Care in Harrisburg.
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Community events at Haddy Saho’s HMC Child Care in Harrisburg are an excursion around the globe.

Parents and children from different cultures are encouraged to wear traditional outfits from their home countries.  

“We are very diverse,” Haddy says of her childcare center. “We have families and students from our community, Asia, and African countries. That’s what I love, to meet people from different cultures and get to know each other. HMC is lucky to have hardworking and kind hearted staff members whose only interest is the make the child learn in a conducive environment filled with love and care.” 

Meeting the needs of the community 

When Haddy moved to Harrisburg from Gambia in 2011, she had no intention of starting a cross-cultural child care center. She created a haven for the community in which she lives and immigrant families in need of affordable child care in 2018 as a matter of necessity.  

“My eldest daughter was going to college and finances were tight, so I opened an in-home day care,” she says.  

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, she moved the day care to a larger rented space on Linglestown Road and has been serving children as young as 6 weeks ever since. In launching HMC, Haddy made affordability, especially for fellow immigrant families, a priority.  

“When I first came here, I was trying to find day care for my kids and couldn’t find any affordable day care,” she says. “People in my community, especially immigrants, find it very hard to find child care that meets their needs and is affordable.” 

A dream hindered by reality 

Haddy’s child care center has the capacity to serve 32 children, and she’s been exploring larger facilities to be able to help more families. But hiring adequate staff has proven challenging. Her desire to provide affordable care means she can’t offer the wages that many larger centers offer. 

At the same time, with high operational costs and trying to stay competitive, Haddy has struggled to secure much-needed funding. After five years in business, she continues to sacrifice her salary to support her employees and families. Haddy dreams of expanding her affordable day care model to other communities, but it’s a dream that remains tempered by financial realities and lack of staffing. 

Despite the difficulties, her dedication is unflagging. 

“These kids are like my own,” she says. “I love seeing their happy faces, hearing them say, ‘Hi, Ms. Haddy, good morning!’ That’s what motivates me to keep coming back every day.” 

Haddy’s approach to child care encompasses more than just a service. She creates a family-like environment where children are nurtured, and parents regularly are updated about their children’s progress. When parents come to her in financial distress, Haddy has been known to waive fees. She regularly brings in home-cooked meals for children who come to the center without a lunch or those who do not want the lunch they came with. 

‘Never give up’ 

Despite the difficulties associated with pulling up roots and moving to the U.S. and the challenges of operating her business, Haddy believes her immigrant background has made her stronger, teaching her the value of hard work and resilience. She’s always willing to help a like-minded founder get a child care center off the ground.  

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank my dear husband Muhtarr, my daughters, colleagues in the daycare, Tameeka, Dorothe, Patricia, Ms. Pecola, and Ms. Kumba because without their support and dedication HMC will not be where we are today,” Haddy says.  

“Never give up,” she adds. “Always help in any little way you can to put a smile on someone’s face.”