Program reaches out to Saddlebrook children

By: Tammy Rollie

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Dec 18, 2013 06:00 am

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A Diamond Valley youth group is putting smiles on the faces of children struggling through some difficult times.

Since August, the Boys and Girls Club of Diamond Valley opened its doors to school-aged children and teens who are currently living in the Saddlebrook temporary housing near Aldersyde. The club is inviting the displaced children to join the club’s activities in Nanton and Black Diamond after hundreds of High River families lost their homes in June’s flood.

Boys and Girls Club of Diamond Valley executive director Shirley Puttock said the program will continue throughout the Christmas break and into the new year.

“They are talking Saddlebrook could be there for a couple of years,” she said. “(The funding) should last until probably March. We will then go for more funding.”

The club was awarded $50,000 from the Flood Rebuilding Fund of the Calgary Foundation last summer to hire two childcare workers and provide busing for Saddlebrook children to participate in recreational activities in nearby communities.

“The Calgary Foundation funds us for many projects,” said Puttock. “After the flood occurred they said ‘if we can give you some money, can you go help?’”

Puttock said the club wanted to expand to High River as part of its strategic plan.

She jumped at the opportunity and hired two childcare workers to reach out to Saddlebrook families and get children involved with the club’s initiatives.

After school, Saddlebrook children meet in a shared facility in the community to participate in games, crafts and get homework help.

Once a week they are bused to Nanton, Okotoks or Black Diamond to take part in their activities or spend a day swimming, skating, bowling or watching movies, said Puttock. “The kids are loving it,” she said. “They are making new friends.”

The Boys and Girls Club is connecting with other agencies including Family and Community Support Services and plans to utilize the Foothills Regional Field House when it opens. The club also applied for funding to purchase sports equipment to keep the youth active.

“It’s a huge collaboration with the community services,” Puttock said. “We are really grateful to the flood rebuilding fund and all the other support that we received from the community of High River. It wouldn’t have been possible without them.”

Two childcare workers who were displaced in June’s flood oversee the Saddlebrook program and they have reached out to 35 youth and children.

“After the flood I think that all the families are stressed,” said childcare worker Elizabeth Vigueras. “There are people working and some people that are not working at all. In the middle of all of this there is the children. For us it’s our biggest concern.”

Vigueras, who also works for SNAPS (Special Needs Association for Parents and Siblings), Literacy for Life Foundation and Parent Link Centre, connected with families in Saddlebrook to let them know of this opportunity for their children.

She said the majority of families are immigrants who are struggling to get their lives back in order and adjusting to life in the temporary housing.

“I think it’s a really busy time for parents with all the things they have to do,” she said. “The trailers are so small. There is not too much space.”

Vigueras said in some cases the parents don’t have time or money to go out and do something fun with their children. That’s where the Boys and Girls Club comes in.

“It’s another thing that gives them a chance to get a break from the trailers and get away from all the stress that sometimes you feel when you are inside a house,” she said.

“We are having another opportunity for these children to have their own experience with other children the same age.”

Vigueras, who is originally from Mexico, said she is grateful for all of the resources available to families and individuals, including immigrants.

“Canada is wonderful and has many things to offer,” she said. “One of the goals in our office is to let them know all the resources that Canada has and connect the children to do some hockey and skating.”


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