Mayor Rob Sawatzky welcomes teacher Sylvie Fersch and children from Arc-en-Ciel Child Care Centre during a visit to Vernon city council chambers for National Child Day Nov. 20.

Mayor Rob Sawatzky welcomes teacher Sylvie Fersch and children from Arc-en-Ciel Child Care Centre during a visit to Vernon city council chambers for National Child Day Nov. 20.

A boost for the early years

The North Okanagan Early Years Council celebrated children Nov. 19, and handed out Champion of the Child Awards

Lynne Reside

Special to The Morning Star

The North Okanagan Early Years Council (formerly named the North Okanagan Early Childhood Development Coalition) held a Community Early Years Forum Nov. 19.

Many community leaders were present, including Eric Foster and Min Sidhu from the MLA’s office and community stakeholders from the Vernon School District, the City of Vernon, non-profit societies, business, aboriginal and faith communities, who all share an ongoing commitment to the healthy development of children aged zero to six years in our communities.

The NOEYC held their regular meeting followed by lunch and an informational presentation on the importance of  early years community development, Generation Squeeze (citizens under the age of 45 who are squeezed for family time, employment, student loans, and high housing costs), child and family poverty, and information about the initiatives that the NOEYC is taking to make positive changes for families with young children. A world café format provided opportunities for the community’s input.

The council was pleased to honour seven outstanding community members with the Champion of the Child Award. The 2013 recipients are Joe Rogers, superintendent of the Vernon School District, for his ongoing active participation in numerous council initiatives with the district; the City of Vernon (accepted by Coun. Mary Jo O’Keefe) for its support of children’s rights through the endorsement of the City of Vernon Children’s Charter and support of young children; Shelby Wall, for 25 years of commitment to  reading to young children in early years centres such as West Vernon Children’s Centre, Rebecca Kerr, for her outstanding work in supporting children with autism at NONA; Lisa Patterson for her caring approach with young children at the Elephant Care Family Child Care Centre in Armstrong; Shannon Green, for her supportive work with the North Okanagan Pregnancy Care Centre; and to Jamie Wattie of Staples for her ongoing support of the Backpack project to supply children with school supplies in conjunction with the Family Resource Centre, North Okanagan Youth and Family Services, Whitevalley Community Resource Centre and the Okanagan Boys and Girls Club.

The goal of the NOEYC is to build community capacity to provide safe, healthy and nurturing environments so that young children can reach their potential. This can include play activities in safe, age-appropriate playgrounds and parks, access to affordable quality child care, free programs and services for families that support healthy development, education for families and educators, working to reduce the 33 per cent vulnerability rate in our communities for children entering kindergarten and addressing the high poverty rate for working and unemployed families with young children.

The council has focused on increasing public awareness, improving physical activity, (particularly in outdoor natural environments), reducing screen time, reducing barriers to participation in the many activities our communities have to offer and being a strong voice for change. Vernon, Coldstream, Lavington, Lumby, Cherryville, Armstrong and Spallumcheen are included in the initiative which is funded by Success by 6 (partnership with the United Way, Credit Unions of BC and the Province of BC), Children First and Building Blocks (initiatives of the Ministry for Children and Family Development).

National Child Day recognizes the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children and celebrates our smallest citizens every Nov. 20. It is celebrated in many ways and used as an opportunity to raise awareness with both children and adults about the internationally recognized rights of children.

The City of Vernon invited children to come to Children in the City! Children in City Hall! More than 80 children and their families, child care providers and teachers were welcomed into council chambers, had photos taken with the mayor and received a snack. Some of them sat in the mayor and councillors’ chairs and imagined what a city fit for children would look like if they made the decisions!

Lynne Reside is the Early Years Community Development coordinator for the North Okanagan. For more information, e-mail or go to or