Program cut: Due to provincial funding pressures and other available community programs

Program cut: Due to provincial funding pressures and other available community programs

Singing circle shut down

Mother Goose: Last celebration set for March 14, after more than 15 years in operation.

After more than 15 years in operation, Mother Goose program participants will be singing their last notes on March 14.

The free community program, which taught songs, stories and rhymes to parents and caregivers of children up to three years old, is being cancelled due to funding limitations on the Shuswap Children’s Association.

“The funding decision was reluctantly made by the Early Childhood Committee, made up of a broad cross-section of community-minded people from numerous agencies. In our non-profit world, the money just keeps getting less and less, so we are looking at the best ways to get value for the money,” said June Stewart, executive director of the association.

Stewart explains that the committee’s mandate is to focus on areas where the communities may be lacking in terms of readiness for kindergarten, and in the Shuswap, language and communication skills are not considered a vulnerable area when compared to physical health, social skill and emotional maturity.

Stewart also points out that when Mother Goose started, there were fewer playgroup opportunities and no free community Strong Start programs, which currently run out of the Downtown Activity Centre and Salmon Arm West Elementary.

But mothers with young children are lamenting the loss of the program, which they say, helped them connect with their kids and other families.

“My children and I have been attending Mother Goose on and off for seven years,” says Holly Malashewsky, a mother of three.

“The stories and songs that we have learned through the program have been an important part of our learning and growing at home.

“Going to Mother Goose connected us with other families and created a wonderful feeling of community and friendship. We will really miss the program, we are very sad.”

Program facilitators Ellen Gonella and Carmen Moore are welcoming current Mother Goose participants as well as past participants and facilitators back to the program for its final session on March 14 from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. in the Downtown Activity Centre.

“Join us as we sing our last songs together and celebrate the program that has brought us a lot of joy, friendships and songs that our children demand to sing over and over and over,” they write in a letter.

They point out that the program went beyond teaching stories.

“Singing together, chatting before and after the session and during the free snack and sharing ideas and concerns as we posed the group question, has allowed caregivers from a broad spectrum to make solid friendships, support one another and share in the joys, frustrations and awe of raising little people.”

Recognizing that provincial program funding is needing to be spread more thinly around the area, the pair are appreciative of those who made the program a success for so long.

Stewart says instead of Mother Goose, which is an expensive program to operate, the Salmon Arm committee is planning to emphasize outdoor activities including neighbourhood family activities, exploration of local parks and the renewal of traditional games and unstructured outdoor play.

She suggests parents check their website at www.shuswapchildrens.ca for information on upcoming activities.