Benefits of Aboriginal Head Start

AHS is making a difference for...

Making a Difference for Communities

Aboriginal Head Start communities are becoming the new ‘village’ for Aboriginal people living in urban areas. They offer a welcoming environment, making newcomers and strangers feel at home and sometimes even like they already know each other. Relationships develop not only between parents and Head Start staff, but parents get to know one another while their children become friends. Harley Rose, a former parent and volunteer at Eagle’s Nest AHS and Singing Frog AHS in Vancouver, spoke of getting to know other parents through the school and in the neighbourhood, and how they all share a bond through Aboriginal Head Start. This sense of ongoing community is evident by the number of parents who eagerly participated in this 15 Years Valuing Project whose children have long since left the program and are now further along in their education.

“It’s been fascinating to learn what role Head Start plays in the community; it’s not just about the children… its a ‘hub’ for families. Families with children who aren’t in Head Start yet, and families with children who have been in Head Start.”

– Robin Reid: Program Consultant, BC Region, Public Health Agency of Canada

“[Singing Frog] Head Start has put me in touch with so many people in the community… anywhere I go I know people. It’s a very familiar family feeling in a big city; you get this close-knit community, and it’s a really welcoming, warm feeling.” – Krista Murray: Parent, Singing Frog AHS

“All the different people that [my daughter] met here that we still see around in the neighbourhood, they will always be her friends hopefully. It’s really great that she has that connection there, and here.” – River Hill: Parent & Volunteer, Singing Frog AHS

“It’s a protective community here. That’s what I really like about it. I told my dad they pick [my son] up on a school bus and drop him off here and we don’t have to worry about him… It’s a very good school. I love it. A very good staff and they care for the little kids. That’s pretty good.” – Kelly Amos: Parent, Eagle’s Nest AHS

“These families from isolation become part of the community, talking with the children, talking with other families, networking, it’s just a natural evolution.”

– Randy Trelinski: Bus Driver, Comox Valley AHS

“By bringing [children] this ‘head start’ and teaching them how to count and learn their ABCs in Kwakwala, and learn some of the things that we didn’t get to learn and teach in some of the villages, it’s been a real asset to us People, as an older people; because when they get into their teens, they’re able to teach as well and to hand that [knowledge] on more and more.” – Shawn Decaire: Cultural Teacher & Former Parent, Qwallayuw AHS

“We’ve always helped out as parent volunteers. We helped build that playground out there… The atmosphere [keeps us coming back] – everybody’s always happy and friendly, the good food, the joking…” – Marty Clayton: Former Parent & Grandparent, Kermode AHS

“One of the most important things that I’ve learnt here is that we are a family. I’ve learnt that I have a family here that I can count on. If anything goes wrong in my personal life, I know that my family here at Future 4 Nations I can count on.” – Zelda Williams: Early Childhood Educator & Manager, Future 4 Nations AHS

“Where I grew up, people were fluent in their language – Algonquin, Cree, Montaignais or Innu – so when I moved here, I was quite shocked to see the effects of Residential School and alcoholism, and family values disappearing… Some of our first children have kids now – 16 years old is young, but its part of our reality here to support them, be there for them. Seeing families doing well also enriches my life because I feel we’re here on earth to support each another and help one another, and we learn from children and hopefully we can teach children also.” – Yves L’Archeveque: Bus driver/Maintenance & Former Parent, Qwallayuw AHS

The benefits extend beyond the Head Start Village to the greater communities in which they are located. Individuals from associated agencies attest to the positive impact that being involved with Head Start has made in their own personal lives. In some areas, AHS programs reach out to non-Aboriginals by offering inclusion in the program.

“I’m not Aboriginal… but I’ve learned about the culture…The children teach me …and I’ve been learning from our Elder Eugene the language and different prayers. This experience is awesome! … My beliefs and their beliefs are the same although a little different, so we respect each other’s culture. It teaches me respect, patience… I feel a sense of family.” – Candice Harris-Rivera: Bus Driver & Childcare Worker, Eagle’s Nest AHS

“When these programs are being funded, it’s good to know that it is benefiting the child and the educational process, and certainly I don’t think there’s anybody in the school who doesn’t have good things to say about the Head Start program... I think all these steps going into intervention are really very good… it’s making a difference.” – Amber Knezacek: Kindergarten teacher, Terrace

“I became involved with AHS as an Enhancement Worker with VASCD. I enjoy the warm, supportive environment, and the rich and meaningful learning opportunities with the children and the teacher. I feel grateful that being involved with AHS is my work. With each visit, I am reminded of how much I learn from the children about what really matters in life. I can learn about cultural teachings and values, and be reminded of the wisdom of children.” – Anne Tomlinson: Enhancement Worker, VASCD

“In our enhancement program at Robron, we have three seats that are saved for non-Aboriginal children, so that makes a difference. I think it gives the community a better understanding of who we are and what we have to offer, and then there’s not maybe so many barriers out there.” – Lorraine Kok: Program Coordinator, Qwallayuw AHS

“Aboriginal Head Start is making a difference, not only to those families and staff who are a part of Head Start everyday, but also to those communities the AHS is in. Head Start is the place where new friends are welcome and sharing happens, and this helps to raise awareness and cultural safety and appreciation for who we are and the strengths we bring to our communities.” – Joan Gignac, Executive Director, AHSABC