Transforming Latin America from an Early Childhood Approach - FEMSA
Press Release

Transforming Latin America from an Early Childhood Approach


If you could see your city from an elevation of 95 centimeters, the average height of a healthy 3-year-old, what would you change? 


  • The dollar return invested in early childhood programs is estimated to be between $6,40 USD and $17USD.
  • 3-year-olds and their caregivers, take twice the time to cross a street, compared to the time of a healthy adult.


Latin America, November 01, 2021: Children and their caregivers live in cities differently from the rest of the population, these experiences influence their development and growth, as well as the well-being of their families, neighborhoods, and communities.


The Urban95 initiative, focused on urban planning for early childhood, led by the Bernard van Leer Foundation, will reach Guatemala, the Caribbean Coast in Colombia, and Chile, in alliance with the FEMSA Foundation, local municipalities, and United Way network in Latin America.


All experiences in the first years of life are vital for brain development. A healthy urban environment allows for strong connections at all levels: it enables frequent connections with caring and loving adults; important relationships are cultivated between infants; and the use of public space for communities improves.


In communities like San Francisco, in Mixco-Guatemala, families face daily challenges to generate healthy connections and ideal spaces for play. 12-year-old Jose Luis remembers: “I have come to work to the market with my mother since I was 3; now transforming the ravine into a park means having a chance to play with my 4-year-old sister in a clean place. While my mom works, it will be more fun the waiting”. 


Having a safety route, with educational elements, for the mobility of families, to and from schools is vital to improve urban spaces. This is the goal in Villas de San Pablo, Barranquilla-Colombia, where children like 7-year-old Wilson, said: “The way to school is monotonous, I can’t find an outdoor space to wait for my little sister after school”.


As a result of the COVID19 pandemic, in Bicentenario City in Cartagena, Colombia, families have not been using public spaces, generating insecurity and damage to the playground and equipment provided by the parks. Children are spending more time at home.


In this neighborhood, the Urban95 initiative will increase the weekly use of public space, with the design for a recreational space among children and their caregivers. In a complementary manner, a public space, which today is destined for waste, will become a recreational area.


The importance of children’s play and contributing to a good mental health is the challenge in Plaza Santo Tomás and Plaza El Roble in La Pintana commune, in Santiago-Chile. Together with local partners, the transformation design offers to encourage children to play, and a safety and tranquility space for caregivers, also, an appropriation of the space by the community.

In all cities, alliances with municipalities will allow the expansion and maintenance of interventions. At the same time, community participation through consultations and interactions with the operating teams are vital for the appropriation of space and caregivers’ guidance.

“With Urban95 initiative we help our partners to work on various aspects of the planning and design of an urban space, and aspects of living in a city, in order to improve health and well-being, in addition to fostering healthy interactions between young girls and those who care for them”. Mentioned, Cecilia Vaca Jones, Executive Director of the Bernard van Leer Foundation.

“In addition to human interactions, the environment that surrounds children will also impact their health, their behavior and the opportunities they will have throughout their lives. A public space that is good for children is good for the whole society. When we design spaces that includes the voice and participation of children, we strengthen the social fabric and build more equitable cities”, Lorena Guillé-Laris, Executive Director of Fundación FEMSA, said.

To think about cities with the point of view of the smallest, means guaranteeing a good start to individual development, and it also guarantees the basis for an equitable and peaceful society.


About URBAN95 Challenge

An expanding movement made up of cities designed from an elevation of 95cm, the average height of a 3-year-old, because it takes a whole city to raise a child.

Visit the initiative manifesto in this LINK.

About Bernard van Leer Foundation

Founded in 1949, the Bernard van Leer Foundation focused in 1965 on working worldwide to ensure that babies, toddlers, and the people who care for them have a good start in life. Our mission is to improve opportunities for all young children, especially the millions of young children growing up in circumstances of socio, economic and environmental disadvantage around the world.

About FEMSA Foundation

In FEMSA Foundation our goal is to create positive impacts on people and communities through social investment projects for sustainability. We make a better future for all by working in three strategic areas: the promotion of efficient resource management for sustainable development, the promotion of the integral development of early childhood and the dissemination of Latin American art and culture.

About United Way

United Way Worldwide (UWW) is a 125-year-old international leader in philanthropy, with a presence in more than 40 countries and territories around the world. As the world’s largest private nonprofit organization, United Way is driving change and working to improve education, reduce poverty, and build stronger and healthier communities.

Through our network, the Urban95 challenge will be in the Guatemala region by United Way Guatemala, together with the Municipality of Mixco and Fundación Crecer. In Colombia, by United Way Colombia, together with Colectivo TRASO, Fundación Santo Domingo and Primero lo Primero. And, in Chile, by United Way Chile in alliance with Fundación Deporte Libre.

You can follow the updates on social networks with the hashtag #TransformamosDesde95cm.

Available documents

Get in Touch

Hanako Taniguchi
Press Relations at FEMSA
+52 (55) 5249-6820

Oscar F. Martínez
Press Relations at FEMSA
+52 (81) 8318-1863