StrongStart Finds New Life Online

Posted On Wednesday April 29, 2020

When face-to-face StrongStart programming had to be stopped due to coronavirus, all seven facilitators in the district worried it would spell the end of their connection with parents of young children. Instead, it brought new ways of connecting and communicating that may have forever changed the way StrongStart is delivered.

“It’s Brilliant,” said Marianne Vande Pol, District Early Years Coordinator. “Not only are we connecting with a lot more people, the depth of that connection is wider and deeper. We have built a whole new online platform, and even after the pandemic is over, I believe we will continue to communicate this way.”

Before the pandemic, four facilitators in Kamloops, and one each in Chase, Clearwater and Barriere used their Facebook accounts to post times and schedules to bring parents and children to small gatherings. These gatherings were generally held during the morning on school days in small classrooms across the district. Facilitators might be connecting with about a dozen parents and their children each day, up to a maximum of 25 families.

During the pandemic, facilitators have been able to find new ways to connect. They started with recorded videos and soon moved to live events on Facebook, and then they began to hold Zoom meetings, responding to parents’ needs and requests.

Now, they are seeing some of their posts shared by families and reaching from 90 to 100 people a day. They are responding to requests from families to post specific stories and content online, and they are seeing their content reaching families across the province and into Alberta.

Even more exciting, said Vande Pol, is that groups of families are now forming Zoom meeting ‘pods’ of up to eight, so they can have more detailed conversations with each other and with facilitators.

“It’s allowed for harder conversations, and even for one-on-one connections,” she said. “It’s also allowed facilitators to have a better idea of what the issues are, and what’s happening in our communities.”

StrongStart is a free, drop-in program open to all children and their families from birth to Kindergarten age.

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