|All citizens should care about the well-being of children. Children are 'nested' in multiple environments:|
|·||The child within the family.|
|·||The family within the larger community of neighbourhoods and workplaces.|
|·||The community as defined by different geographic and political boundaries.|
|·||The public institutions (such as schools) that provide community infrastructure.|
|·||The governments that provide the resources and policies that allow each of these nests to function well.|
Each of these distinct spatial and political environments are also social nests in which children and, in turn, families are nurtured.
Sharon Stroick and Jane Jenson, Canadian Policy Research Networks
What does it take to raise a healthy child? We know that children who start out strong, stay strong. The adults in their lives are committed, informed and connected. Their homes are nurturing and safe. Their parents, teachers and neighbours work together to ensure access to the constellation of services, programs and experiences needed for optimal development from infancy to adulthood. Employers and other civic leaders take a long view. Their decisions support family life and create support positive conditions: adequate incomes, effective parenting, and safe, child-friendly environments.
If it takes a village to raise a healthy child, what does it take to 'raise' or build a village in times like these? The village is built by groups and networks of good friends. People who put children at the centre of their communities. They know each child's story. They show up to play, learn and explore with them day by day, season by season, and year by year. They encourage, coach and counsel. They hang in with them through mistakes and misunderstandings. Such people are also witnesses to the significant milestones in a young life - when a child makes a new friend, masters a skill, sport or game, and discovers the wonders of nature. They contribute their time and money, and share their interests and talents. They look out for the most vulnerable and lend their influence to change adverse conditions or remove barriers. They seek out partners and collaborators to invest in practical strategies for greatest benefit.
For well over a hundred years, the YMCA has been one such friend. We have been building villages - communities and neighbourhoods, cities and provinces, a country and a world - fit to raise children. Looking back, we have helped raise almost seven generations of Canadian children.
|How has the YMCA sustained a friendship with so many for so long? We have done this by:|
|·||Carving out excellent civic space in growing communities for activities that develop spirit, mind and body.|
|·||Inviting friends and neighbours to talk about what matters most and to do something about it.|
|·||Focusing on the long haul over the quick fix, practical community health solutions and knocking down walls that divide us along social or economic lines.|
|·||Working with like-minded organizations, inspiring donors and forming partnerships.|
|·||By protecting what is timeless and by changing with the times.|
The YMCA has dreams for children. We believe in their potential to become competent, independent and generous adults - and to bounce back from setbacks or hardships. We also believe in the capacity of individuals to grow into good parents. Support in making these passages is essential.
Since 1886, the YMCA of Greater Vancouver (YMCA) has strived to be one of the city's 'child-friendly' spaces. We gave the city its first public meeting rooms, pools, libraries and gymnasiums as well as family-oriented social and recreational programs. The YMCA has always been known as a safe zone linking home, school and community in ways that benefit children and families.
Partner: The YMCA works alongside all the important people in a child's life to instill values, facilitate learning, ensure constructive use of time, and build relationships. We are a partner in setting boundaries and expectations, building social skills, and nurturing a positive identity. In designing and delivering programs, we are trusted mentors and coaches, educators and trainers, and operators and managers.
Bridge: The YMCA is a point of connection for children and families to community resources. We do the detective work and find out who else can help. There are times when we advocate on their behalf with school authorities or government representatives. We also collaborate with schools, governments and other organizations to bring the best combination of supportive services as close to home as possible. We have many program alliances and participate in related coalitions and networks.
'Living Laboratory': The YMCA has a proven capacity to lead and innovate in developing effective responses to tough social issues. We have a direct relationship with thousands of children and families, often spanning many ages, stages and generations. We are able to test and adapt programs as well as work with researchers to get at the root causes of issues, evaluate strategies, and extract good practices. We can play a catalytic role in new initiatives by bringing researchers, policymakers and practitioners to the same table.
Early Childhood Education and Family Support: YMCA child care centres, school age care programs, family development centres and parenting support services are all about high quality, stimulating, age-appropriate learning environments for growing children - and peace of mind for parents who are working, studying or juggling the multiple demands of family life. Other YMCA programs help parents find work and housing, return to school, and learn a new language. These programs build the foundation of a healthy household. They create strong community connections and promising futures for all family members.
Recreation and Sport: We get and keep children moving by providing the tools needed: knowledge, skills, support and equipment. We introduce them to the activities, games and sports such as swimming and basketball - the building blocks of a healthy, active life. These programs also enable parents to carve out 'family time' and stay connected to their children and teens through fun activities that they can enjoy together.
Camping: We connect children with themselves, each other and the natural environment through our outdoor centres, residential and day camping programs and leadership experiences. YMCA campers acquire a wide range of social and physical skills.
Leadership Development: As a child grows into a teenager and a young adult, we offer opportunities for leadership development, global awareness, educational exchanges, career-building internships and steps to employment. Further, we facilitate the participation of young people in community decisions that affect them.
Through literally hundreds of program sites and facilities, we are a hub for people from diverse backgrounds to connect, organize and form communities. These centres are located on the well-worn path between home, school, workplace and marketplace. It is important to us that no one is left out and that YMCA experiences are accessible. YMCA facilities are built and operated for the community by the community.
When members of the Masai people meet one another on the path, they do not ask each other, "How are you?" They ask: "Are the children well?" Many of Canada's aboriginal peoples think in terms of seven generations; the Quakers speak of the '200-year present.' If we are doing our jobs as parents and citizens, it is that 200-year frame of reference that we will keep in mind.
Robert Glossop, Vanier Institute for the Family