Social Support

Aboriginal Head Start programs provide the structure for a new ‘village’ for Aboriginal families in urban areas. The centres become a place where families can network and develop meaningful relationships. AHS parents remark on how staff are very helpful and generous towards the families, as well as being a kindly source of information on resources and community services available to impact their quality of life. Friendships among staff, parents, Elders and students take root in this AHS community. The centre provides a home for those who are far from their families or are newcomers to the city. These friendships often last a lifetime.

"With more and more families living in urban settings and away from their home territories and extended families, it is crucial for our AHS programs to become those 'villages' for our families. Our identity is strengthened when we are surrounded with family. For our families who live in urban settings, our Aboriginal Head Start staff, Elders, families and children become their extended families." - Joan Gignac, Executive Director, AHSABC

“I like that the staff is helpful outside the school, they have clothing drives, they get donations… they help out with that.” – Tania Mitchell: Parent, Singing Frog AHS

“Supporting our families is most important. Especially, I see young single moms with 2, 3, 4 kids. We can give them a bit of a break and at the same time, it’s an honour and give us an opportunity to play with their children and socialize. It’s a lot of fun. Helping out families, that’s where I find a lot of pleasure.” – Yves L’Archeveque: Bus Driver/Maintenance & Former Parent, Qwallayuw AHS

“Maybe some of (the parents) don’t have family; maybe they don’t have that support. I try to talk with some of the young parents too. Because I think they need some positive things too, even if it’s just to sit down and have coffee, sit down and I can hold their baby, and just ask how their day is going.” – Ellen Antoine: Grandparent & Volunteer, Eagle’s Nest AHS & Singing Frog AHS

One goal of the program is to empower parents to access resources, assistance and community services which will support them to be active participants in their children's lives and the AHS Program. Many preschools are housed in or associated with Friendship Centres or other organizations which serve as their Host Agency. These groups often provide support services to the community, such as parenting courses, addiction counselling, food banks, Elders’ Groups and cultural activities, among others. Local agencies, such as Aboriginal Supported Child Development and Infant Development services, play a role in the AHS Village.

“We’re not just dealing with the children from 9am to 3pm every day, we’re helping families access services when they need it, we’re lending a listening ear to them when they need it, we’re getting them to build on the resources that they already have, and building capacity within our families to move forward…” – Anita Zakresky: Senior Manager, Family Wellness Programs, Prince George Native Friendship Centre

“We’re offering the Head Start program in the low income housing, so the families there don’t have transportation issues and they feel comfortable because it’s in their neighbourhood.” – Lorraine Kok: Program Coordinator, Qwallayuw AHS

“Many of the parents that are involved in our Head Starts access other programs within the Friendship Centre as well.” – Barbara Ward-Burkitt: Executive Director, Prince George Native Friendship Centre