Duncan Program Adapts Pre-natal and Early Years Supports for Pandemic with United Way Help
Giving babies a good start, and keeping parents connected.
There is a generation of babies who are being born into this pandemic.
It’s a time of uncertainty, reduced supports, and financial instability for many of us. But those kids, no matter what circumstances they are born into, deserve the best start we can give them.
The United Way funded Healthiest Babies Possible and Early Years programs at Hiiye’yu Lelum Society strive to do that.
Based in Duncan, the program provides expectant mothers with health education, counselling, vitamins and food supplements, group sessions with other new parents and more. Aimed at supporting vulnerable parents, the program serves to keep them connected to a support network and to give their children a strong start at life.
The Early Years program continues that support into the first few years of the child’s life, continuing with infant development education, self-care, food support and more.
“We have 100 families on our caseload right now, which is sizeable for a community this size,” says Laura Sjolie, co-ordinator for the two programs. “All of our families are under the poverty line.”
She recalls one woman who has been couch-surfing for a year and a half. She’s on the verge of kidney failure, and also caring for four children, including a three-month-old. The Hiiye’yu Lelum Society aims to improve those circumstances.
“If we can keep in people’s lives and keep building that community, providing food, education, birth control access, bringing all of those pieces, dental for kids, then we’re keeping those families engaged and involved, and also doing a lot of strengthening,” says Sjolie. “People can lean on each other for peer support, get out and be active … it keeps people from falling through the cracks.”
But, like many programs, these initially struggled to continue their important work due to social distancing and health and safety requirements, which impose additional costs.
That is until United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island provided a Reaching Home grant to help the programs adapt.
Now, the programs can provide bi-weekly care packages with fresh food, prepared meals, vitamins and more, while also hosting Zoom-based programming like storytime, cooking demonstrations and others, in addition to providing accurate COVID-19 health information.
With these services and many others the two programs continue to provide, vulnerable children in Duncan are better prepared to thrive and be happy in the world.
Programs like these continue thanks to donors like you.