I am writing today because I cannot contain my sadness and displeasure about the unfair treatment of the dedicated ladies who have facilitated our beloved programs at the Child Centre.
It wasn't easy moving to a new community and starting a family here, but the care, advice, and services we received from the amazing staff at the Child Centre over the past nine years or more have been invaluable. Jan, Marcie, Penny and Melissa made us feel welcome and their counsel and support while our son was an infant, toddler, pre-schooler and beyond has been incredibly helpful as we found our footing in the community and have grown as a family. Events such as the annual RFCS family BBQ, Heritage Festival Winter play activities and parent/child events are things we look forward to every year, but none more so than the Strawberry Moon Festival, but I'll talk more on that shortly.
Going to Playgroups and events organized by these diligent women was really my first window of involvement in the community and they helped give me the courage and confidence to stay involved.
I began volunteering at the school and assisting with Young Choristers, and eventually creating and running my own bucket drumming ensemble, despite a lack of financial support. When they saw what I was doing, I was approached by Maribeth from the Child Centre as well as a representative from Blue Skies in the Community to ask how they could help support and grow my program to reach more kids in the community! They gave me a practice space I didn't have to pay for and accessed grant money that allowed me to share bucket drumming with other schools through after school programs not only in Sharbot Lake, but Plevna, Mountain Grove, and Verona. They were always accommodating when I had requests and answered my many, many questions with patience and expertise. They also welcomed me onto the committee responsible for planning such events as "Fun at the Fair" and most recently, "Screenagers".
And then there's the Strawberry Moon Festival. For the past twelve years, Marcie has organized and run this yearly treat for our JK/SK kids, providing Aboriginal music, teachings, crafts, and stories in one amazing event. I have had the privilege of being involved for several years now and every year it gets bigger and better. More kids from more schools come to take part in this delicious slice of our Native Heritage and take away a new appreciation for their roots. The atmosphere is always full of joy and excitement as classes make their rounds from station to station, taking part in carefully planned activities and learning. So when Marcie asked if my bucket drummers would like to be involved, our response was immediate and enthusiastic.
Moreover, she asked my drummers if they would run their own station, teaching the little ones an Aboriginal drum beat and song because she believes in the power of kids teaching kids. This was to be an opportunity like no other and my drummers were definitely up to the task. They've been practicing for weeks now and I could not be more proud of them.
But here is where everything falls apart. A bureaucratic transition has happened in the Child Centre and now all of these women have been issued letters of termination. Their work environment, once joyful, has become septic with stress and uncertainty and it seems the Board is offering no support. Their jobs have been posted externally and despite their decades of faithful and compassionate service, they now must face a reality where they must re-apply for their own jobs and compete with outsiders. Other similar agencies who are undergoing the same changes have repealed their letters of termination and ensured all of their employees positions but our Board has not. Because of this, stress and sickness have taken their toll and what would have been the 13th Annual Strawberry Moon Festival, the biggest yet with over 200 kids attending, has been cancelled.
The only word I can find to describe this situation is tragic. Is this how we show appreciation to those who have given so much of themselves for the betterment of our children and our community? I find this to be brutal and unfair and I could not in good conscience remain silent. I encourage those of you in the community to make your voices heard. If you've benefited from the care and services provided by these amazing women, please make your opinions known. Let’s gather together and support those who have so faithfully supported us and our families.
And to these wonderful ladies, from the bottom of my heart, thank you