Inuvik’s Children First Centre is going strong, having only missed two weeks of operation in 2020, though some programming has shifted towards teaching youth at home to keep in pace with Covid-19 restrictions.
That’s the latest update from Children First Society, which began the first of what they anticipate will be regular presentations to Inuvik Town Council at its Jan. 11 Committee of the Whole Meeting.
“With Covid-19, this fiscal year has been quite interesting,” said Children First Society executive director Patricia Davison. “We closed for two weeks at the start of March to take stock of the situation and write some protocols.
“We re-opened against on April 6 for essential services work. As we got closer to the summer we opened up again for all the members of the community and have remained open. We’ve been pretty much at capacity during that time.”
Founded in 2015, the Children’s First Centre has spaces for up to 127 children, which includes the Aboriginal Head Start program and the Gwich’in Tribal Council’s Language Immersion Nest program. Currently the centre his hosting 75 children with 11 on the waiting list, and have staff for up to 83 children. From administration to custodial staff, the centre currently employs 33 people. Six of those employees have been with the centre for at least five years.
Several programs are run out of the centre, including several outreach programs. As a sign of the times, the volume of programming being done outside the building has increased significantly.
“Because of Covid-19, we had to move a lot of our programming into the home and out into the community,” said society co-chair Lenora McLeod. ”With this we have seen a significant increase in programs like Kids in the Kitchen and Budding Arts in Home. It’s been a huge hit.”
Another area the centre has been helping get youth active in are On the Land activities through the centre’s partners. Though Covid-19 restrictions have limited how the program is delivered.
While in previous years the society took kids out to specific camps twice a year, this year they opted to take kids to a day camp at Gwich’in Territorial Park to help connect them with nature.
“Unfortunately, this year having Elders visit was not an option,” said McLeod. “Looking into 2021, we hope to be able to visit Elders’ camps again. If this is not possible, we will continue to use the Gwich’in camp site as our alternative.
Programming has been so popular at the centre; a scholarship was started in 2019 to cover funding for people who cannot afford it otherwise.
So far, the scholarship has enabled four children to access the programming. The funding covers youth for up to six months of early childhood education. McLeod added the centre was currently accepting applications for the scholarship.