Volunteers working to create additional childcare in the Valley

Volunteers working to create additional childcare in the Valley

Melinda Mullins and Kristina Knudsen of the Bella Coola Child Care Steering Committee accept a generous donation from Williams Lake and District Credit Union's Georg Oberprieler

The newly formed Bella Coola Child Care Steering Committee has been hard at work to address the lack of childcare that currently plagues the Bella Coola Valley. At present, only one licensed facility exists to provide childcare for young children, and this presents a major hurdle for parents wishing to return to work.

The Committee consists of family physician Dr. Melinda Zeron-Mullins, a local registered nurse, and several local mothers seeking to return to work. They are working in conjunction with the Superintendent and School Board of District 49.

It is estimated that there are approximately 20-30 children under the age of 36 months requiring daycare in the Valley, and this represents a disproportionate amount of families with no childcare options, resulting in a large number of parents unable to return to work. The only licensed facility, Nuxalk Daycare, is consistently at or near capacity. The other licensed facility, formerly located in Hagensborg, closed over a year ago.

Despite the sluggish local economy, there are always certain sectors of the workforce that are chronically understaffed. This is especially true of the Bella Coola General Hospital and medical clinic, as many of these workers are currently on maternity leave and require reliable childcare to return to work. Additionally, the Committee feels that a stable childcare option would be a good incentive to attract and retain new staff in many different employment sectors of the Valley.

The proposed facility will be licensed for up to 12 children under the age of 36 months. Although these 12 spaces still won’t be enough, it’s a good start and the Committee plans to expand as conditions allow. Partnering with the School District has also offered some unique opportunities. As the proposed facility is located near the local high school, the space will be able to accommodate young female students who are still completing their education, and it will also facilitate a partnership with the high school work experience construction program to complete many of the renovations needed on the building.

While the advantages of a daycare are immediate for parents, there are also opportunities for employment. The facility will require three individuals with Early Childhood Education (ECE) training including a management position. These positions will be posted as soon as they become available, and the daycare will also provide a setting for individuals pursuing their ECE certification to complete their practicum’s and provide valuable experience.

The daycare has received some preliminary funding from the Williams Lake and District Credit Union and Vancouver Coastal Health, and a generous donation from the Ministry of Children and Families in conjunction with the Bella Coola Community Support Society.

The Committee is also seeking donations from the community. Cheques can be made payable to the Bella Coola Daycare Committee, Box 279, Hagensborg, BC, V0T 1H0. Toys and equipment, provided they are in excellent condition, are also required. If you have items for pickup, or if you would like to volunteer your time by joining the Committee or helping set up the daycare, please email bellacooladaycare@gmail.com