Mini fresh baked chocolate chip banana muffins, a little juice box and a healthy snack bar – on colourful plastic plates, seated on small chairs at a small table in a small room where some really REALLY big things are happening in the lives of some young kids! We’ve all heard “sometimes it’s the small things that make the biggest difference”, and we spent an hour and half seeing this in action. Cause We Care Foundation has committed to supporting KidsFirst after school programs at 4 inner city schools in Vancouver; single moms with kids who are struggling with poverty require a few basic things – housing, safe care for their kids so they can work, daily necessities. Pretty straightforward, right? Pretty immense hurdles for the moms, really. So, when kids are able to stay after school for a few extra hours in a program with caring staff and creative mindful activities, in a safe place – moms can stay at work.
Each school is different – area demographics, student population and dynamics, funding, etc., which results in each KidsFirst program being uniquely tailored to the different needs of the kids themselves. The program at Macdonald Elementary (the school is in the middle of a community directed re-naming process) is the smallest program we support. Smallest in terms of the # of kids who participate. The school population itself is small, with approx. 80 kids (always in flux); there are between 10 -20 kids that stay after school Monday through Friday. Some times more individual support is needed. The staff of three (Karen, Vanessa, Cole) are remarkable – we see it in the kids eyes, behaviours, and the way they interact – how much they value and respect each other.
We have a quick tour of the school again, then are invited to sit down to our beautiful snack and chat with Jennifer and watch the program in action. It’s the small things – how they run to a teacher that stops infor a hug, the butterfly art taped to the cupboard, the pleasure they have in the newly created cozy reading corner with a small rug and cheerful bookcase (thanks to the Frontier Club!). How they care for each other, at this young age, a little shy to have us there, yet proud to serve us a snack. When it’s time to line up for the outside activity, its apparent the staff and the kids have a very strong bond. If they weren’t here for these few hours, where would they be? What would they be doing? What would be the influences? Could mom pick them up?
The population here is a transient one in the spring, a lot of families head up north, so sometimes kids are here one day and gone the next. Building confidence with consistency and peer group positivity is important here – and it all begins with the very small things – playing a game of badminton in the gym (coordination, working together), making muffins (basic kitchen skills, sharing), looking a book with a friend (literacy, friendship), having Fit For Defence come in (personal safety, anti-bullying – from all ages), lining up properly (respect, listening skills). There is Cole, the high school youth leader that has gotten so much out of the program himself that he has come back to help the kids in a youth leader role.
We leave our visit filled with thankfulness. We really want our supporters to know how much of a direct difference they are making in the day-to-day lives of kids – every little bit is impacting in a powerful way.
PS. We also walked away with a “wish list” – we will post on-line J