Increasingly, researchers, educators and service providers are recognizing the importance of the early years (newborn to age 6) – that positive and nurturing caregivers, families and communities during those years will lead to socially and emotionally healthy children, teenagers and ultimately adults. The needs of children and their caregivers are of particular importance to communities in the Lower Mainland, given the number of families with young children that are moving to this region on a daily basis. And of course, many South Asian families with young children reside in the region – and luckily, there is a group of dedicated professionals and community members who are focused on identifying and helping to support meeting the needs of these families.
The South Asian ECD Task Group is a group of dedicated individual and organizations passionate about enhancing support and resources for South Asian children ages 0 – 6 and their families in the Surrey – White Rock area. Since its inception in 2004, the Task Group has focused on providing resources and tools to assist parents / caregivers within South Asian communities. Daljit Gill-Badesha, a Manager with the City of Surrey, is Chair of the South Asian Early Childhood Development Task Group. “The South Asian ECD Task Group is comprised of a dedicated team of volunteers and professionals from the community. We rely on these volunteers, their knowledge and connections, and willingness to go to great efforts to support our community to access new and relevant brain development, child development and parenting information. The Task Group responds to emerging needs arising from the community around this area and delivers the information through first language to ensure we have the broadest reach into the South Asian community. It takes a village to raise a child, parents needs access and information, and communities need to support parents to their job well. This Task Group is a village of support for Surrey and White-Rock”.
Susan Papadionissiou is the Coordinator of the Children’s Partnership of Surrey-White Rock as well as a member of the Task Group. The Children’s Partnership of Surrey-White Rock was formed in recognition of the need to collaboratively research, plan, co-ordinate and fund early and middle childhood development initiatives in the Surrey and White Rock area. “The South Asian ECD Task Group works closely with the Children’s Partnership of Surrey-White Rock, to help support all programs in the region to be culturally and linguistically responsive to the needs of families in this region,” explains Papadionissiou. “The South Asian ECD Task Group has worked tirelessly in a time of limited resources and funding, to identify gaps in service and advocate for ways to meet those gaps.”
Since its inception, task group members have conducted research – the group released a report entitled “Multigenerational Parenting in South Asian Families” (the article is available in the latest issue of the Canadian Social Work Journal), disseminated information on the early years through a variety of mediums such as print, radio and television, and held a conference for “Community Champions.” “We have many ‘Champions’ in our South Asian communities – physicians, medical and health care professionals, business people, religious leaders, educators, homemakers, labourers, beauticians and childcare workers who are transmitting information and resources to parents,” explains Gill-Badesha. “In addition, all Task Group members are expected to be visible and active champions for children within the South Asian community, using personal networks and spheres of influence to raise awareness about the importance of early childhood development.”
The group also produces an annual calendar that provides multilingual information in various South Asian languages. This year’s calendar is available in Punjabi and Urdu. Copies of the calendar will be available through Surrey Libraries, recreation centres, and local community agencies.
Task group members meet bi-monthly. To learn more about the Task Group, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the Children’s Partnership website – www.childrenspartnershipsurreywr.com and click on the “South Asian ECD” tab. The website also features numerous resources in various South Asian languages, such as Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil and Hindi.