There are plenty of quotes and sentiments that invite us to think upon the issue of ‘taking care of our children’. Community, churches, schools -children intersect our lives in all kinds of places and spaces. When we go the distance to offer children safe places to play, to eat, to socialize and to build competencies it is more about listening to an inner voice, calling a person to action. And that is precisely what Heather Nisbett and Nancy Cardiff are expressing in their dedication and warmth for the children who attend at their after-school programme, Back to Basics, at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church. This call to action involves supporting children in a neighbourhood which has seen its’ share of marginalization.
Finding its’ start in 2007, Back to Basics (B2B) is an after-school programme where twenty-three energetic youngsters find refuge on any given school day between 3 and 6 pm. B2B seeks to build a productive link for children aged 4 – 11 yrs. who would be enriched by attending there, including backgrounds where socio-economic vulnerabilities create hardship for families. Families are not expected to pay any fees for the programming, and B2B operates almost completely through community donations.
The children arrive by bus from Northern Heights Public School after 3 p.m. Many of the kids were attending Etienne Brule School which has now closed. The goal of B2B is to create a safe and productive place for the children they welcome.
When the children first arrive from school, they head immediately downstairs and get into their slippers. All of the slippers are donated. Some slippers are even hand made. Heather and Nancy express that slippers are an ongoing necessity as children’s feet do tend to grow.
“This item would be a terrific donation for an individual or group to consider undertaking,” said Heather. “The kids use them while they’re here, especially when we head upstairs for the meal.”
Nancy added, “We want the children to feel at home here and slippers are a part of that component.”
After the children have settled in for a bit in the various organized play areas of the hall basement, they head upstairs for the meal. On the day I was there, hot dogs, fresh fruit, veggie sticks, milk and chips were on the menu. While the kids were enjoying their meal, I got a chance to sit with them, and chat about life in general.
Apparently, it’s almost Christmas time. School will mercifully be out for a while, and Santa is only several sleeps away. I do, in fact, have a fairly comprehensive list that was shared with me involving barbies, PlayStations, Pokemons, art supplies, modelling clay, walkie-talkies and yes, a lap-top and I-phone were mentioned.
All of the children expressed that they enjoyed coming to B2B. They spoke about playing with friends both inside and outside. They were actively engaged in stories, cooperative play and sharing their day which includes a highlight reel about school.
Without fail, the kids thought that the meal was one of their most favourite things about coming to B2B. The provisions for the meal are garnered from donations that have come in to support the programme. Heather and Nancy expressed the gratitude they have for the ongoing donations, and encourage people to think about ways they may be able to help.
Gift cards to Metro, Walmart, Food Basics, and other grocery stores are especially helpful. Food donations go a long way to offset costs associated with the daily meal. Nancy and Heather try to provide healthy meals with lots of fellowship time for the children.
Back 2 Basics has a facebook page, and the link provided below will help you navigate ways that you may be able to offer support. Financial contributions, groceries, toys, computers, arts and craft supplies are all pieces that make up the big picture for B2B. Tax receipts can be issued.
Heather Nisbett and Nancy Cardiff are living examples of how our society could take care of those most vulnerable amongst us. “Go make a difference in your corner of the world.” That is the message Nancy and Heather heeded, and will continue to live, as long as they can.
Thank you to all of the kids at B2B. You’re a hoot.
Want to help out? Check out B2B facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1592392620980715/?ref=tsandfref=ts
Or call 705.575.3060