Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs step up to support essential service workers

the organization changed its programming to accommodate all-day workers

The Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs are contributing to the fight against COVID-19 through childcare.

The organization provides after-school care and activities but during this time it had to switch gears to provide all-day childcare for the children of frontline workers.

Emma Heistein, a supervisor at the Martin Avenue branch in Kelowna, said they are now open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. She said the number of kids in their care varies daily, ranging from three to six kids a day. Before the pandemic, Heistein said they saw 40 to 48 kids.

“We’ve had to change our programming… to assist parents by accommodating kids being able (sic) to do their schoolwork,” she said.

“We really are just being very flexible and doing the best we can to serve our families. But it’s been great fun because we get to see one-on-one relationships being developed between the kids and the staff.”

Two other staff members echoed Heistein’s sentiments. Brandon Dodds and Duncan Fiust both agreed while they’ve had to adapt quickly and learn how to be teachers, they also love spending more time with the children —building trust and mentoring them.

Dodds is a senior program lead and he used to work at A. S. Matheson Elementary. He said they’ve all had to learn to be more vigilant when it comes to hygiene and cleaning tables, chairs, and all the materials the kids’ touch, but it’s also been fun for him.

“It’s been so nice to see all these kids I haven’t seen in a while… and nice to still see people because obviously, we can’t go anywhere,” he said.

“We’re also taking on the role of teachers because we’re doing schoolwork with them, but I don’t want to come off as a teacher because I’m not really that person in their life. But I still want to be there for the parents, because they’re working hard and I don’t want them to still have to deal with homework when they come home.”

Fiust said he feels proud of the staff for being able to adapt to the situation and helping the community in their own way.

“We’ve done a really good job as a collective to still make a fun environment and find activities that are both safe for the kids and include social distancing while having fun,” he said.

He said some of these activities include morning yoga, a check-in time to see how the kids are doing, some outdoor stretches and crafts.

The children said they’re happy to be spending the days at the club because it allows them to leave the house and still see their friends. Others said they were happy to see the staff and spend time with them.

Childcare for essential service workers through the Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs is offered in Kelowna, West Kelowna, Penticton, and Vernon.

READ: Kelowna’s youth shelter still in place despite COVID-19 pandemic

READ: Don’t use fireworks, bear bangers to celebrate health-care workers: RCMP

Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
Follow me on Twitter


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