By Matthew Liebenberg
It has been a while since the Swift Current & District Early Childhood Intervention Program (ECIP) held a family fun day with a barbecue, games and various activities, but the tradition resumed with two successful and well supported events.
Not surprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the hiatus, but ECIP Executive Director Wayne Cormier felt it was time to resume the event.
“We want to celebrate our families and all the work that they do with their children,” he said. “There’s a huge amount of commitment, because we are a therapeutic program. So they put in the time and the commitment, and this is the way of just celebrating with them.”
He added that the event was an opportunity to connect with the community and to increase the program’s visibility.
“It’s an opportunity for us to get our program out in the public and just bringing more awareness,” he said. “We haven’t really been able to do that since COVID. So that’s why it was very exciting and very good to see all the families and the kids.”
It took place at two different locations in the region. The Maple Creek event was held on June 3. It was scheduled for Centennial Park, but moved indoors to the rink due to the weather.
“We had 160 people there,” he said. “We had to move everything inside the hockey rink at the last moment, because it started to rain. It rained all day. So that worked out really well. It was a nice venue.”
Sunny weather made it possible to have the family fun day outdoors in Swift Current’s Riverside Park on June 10.
“We had 245 people,” he said. “That’s really good. We were really excited to have this number of families out.”
The Swift Current event provided an opportunity for the program to continue building connections with families who are new to the area.
“We had a new family from Sudan that was there that we just started working with,” he said. “We had six families from Ukraine that we just started working with. It’s very encouraging to see families from other countries come here and then within a week or two they’re referred to us by Health or by their community church.”
Swift Current and District ECIP is one of 14 early childhood and intervention programs in the province. It offers specialized services to families of young children between birth and school age who are at risk for, have been diagnosed with or exhibit developmental delay.
“We are one of the longest serving community-based organizations in Swift Current,” Cormier noted. “And I’m not talking service clubs. I’m talking community-based organizations. We’re at 35, going on 36 now. So we’ve been around a long time. I think that speaks volumes about the value and the importance of the program.”
It provides support to families across southwest Saskatchewan. Geographically it serves the largest area of all the early childhood intervention programs in the province. It stretches from the Alberta border east to the Hodgeville turnoff and from Kyle in the north to the United States border.
“When you look at south of Eastend, some turnaround times just to get there is three hours,” he said. “You do two hours of counseling and then three hours back. That’s an eight-hour day.”
The work is done by a small team of dedicated staff from various professional backgrounds. They are trained to work with children as well as families.
“I think that’s why the program has been so successful, because families feel that their needs are being met and we’re helping their children,” he said. “Our whole goal at the end of the day is to help kids to be ready for school.”
He felt another key component of the program’s success is the provision of in-home support to families.
“Primarily we go into the homes, because children and parents are more comfortable in their homes as opposed to come to a centre-based clinical environment,” he said. “And it’s also important for our staff to see the environment where the kids are learning and living.”