Since Horizons for Homeless Children was launched in 1987, the need for high-quality child care has been amplified by research showing that the first three years are critical to the development of a child’s brain. “If you can create a stable, loving environment, it’s giving a child a great start in life,” says Linda Mason, who co-founded the nonprofit with her husband Roger Brown. They support Horizons and other organizations through their Donor Advised Fund at the Boston Foundation.
Linda Mason and Roger Brown learned something powerful when they worked together in the 1980s in Sudan. They had created a program to respond to the drought and famine ravaging the people there—and while helping the children, they witnessed that even a modest intervention can dramatically impact the trajectory of a child’s whole life.
And so, when they returned to the United States, they decided to create an organization that would help children here. “We were witnessing the most important sociological revolution of our lifetime,” explains Linda, “which was the entry of mothers with children into the workforce—all needing child care—and our existing child-care system was inadequate. We started Bright Horizons for Children in 1986.”
Soon after launching Bright Horizons, they started the nonprofit Horizons for Homeless Children with their good friend Michael Eisenson. “We had all recently become parents ourselves,” says Roger, “and it gave us enormous empathy. Here we were in a relatively stable situation and it was hard to be a parent. What if you were a mother doing it alone? What if you had no money? What if you had no place to live?”
Today, Bright Horizons is the largest provider of worksite child care and early education in the world. Horizons for Homeless Children touches the lives of more than 2,000 Massachusetts homeless children through Playspaces in shelters and operates three early learning centers for homeless children while also helping mothers reach self-sufficiency. The goal, as Linda puts it, “is to help mothers achieve their goals—for their children and themselves.”