The goal of the PLEC (Play, Learn, Experience & Connect) Program is to offer rural families living in the north end of the Comox Valley with early years’ children opportunities to participate in fun and engaging activities closer to home and to make social connections within their rural area. Photo supplied

The goal of the PLEC (Play, Learn, Experience & Connect) Program is to offer rural families living in the north end of the Comox Valley with early years’ children opportunities to participate in fun and engaging activities closer to home and to make social connections within their rural area. Photo supplied

New Early Years Program to begin in the fall for rural Comox Valley families

Free weekly drop-in program at 2 locations beginning in September

Families with young children will have more opportunities to participate in community programs this fall thanks to the PlanH grant stream from the BC Healthy Communities Society. The Comox Valley Regional District Recreation Department partnered with The Building Connections Project to create The PLEC (Play, Learn, Experience & Connect) Program supported by the PlanH funding.

The PLEC Program is a free weekly parent and child drop-in program that will be offered at the Dove Creek Hall (Tuesday mornings) and Huband Park Elementary School (Wednesday mornings) beginning on September 14th. The goal of the PLEC Program is to offer rural families living in the north end of the Comox Valley with early years’ children opportunities to participate in fun and engaging activities closer to home and to make social connections within their rural area.

The Building Connections Project for Comox Valley families is an initiative of the Comox Valley Early Years Collaborative. The Connections Project is founded on the premise that when our community works together we can improve early years’ outcomes and encourage young children to thrive and develop physically, socially, emotionally and cognitively.

The Connections Project began in 2019 and represents a truly collaborative community effort. The CVRD has been a consistent supporter, with particular support from electoral area directors Arzeena Hamir and Edwin Grieve.

“We know that rural families face challenges accessing programs for their young children that are based within municipalities. The PLEC Program will help young children gain valuable social interactions and will also help connect rural families to each other, thereby developing a greater support system,” said Hamer.

COVID-19 has increased the need for social connections and has emphasized how crucial these connections are for the health and well-being of both young children and their parents. Hamir’s personal experiences as a parent further explains her enthusiasm for the Connections Project.

“I know when I was raising my girls, the help of organizations and programs like this made a huge difference to reduce my isolation and connect me to families with kids of similar age. It was a lifesaver for my mental health.”

Grieve speaks to the more recently identified need for opportunities for rural families as a result of the changing demographics.

“Lately we have seen a huge influx of young families coming to this area. With new arrivals living in unfamiliar, spaced-out neighbourhoods and the great distance to schools and services, there is a risk of sometimes feeling socially isolated. Making connections through these programs will help bring kids and parents together and benefit the whole rural community.”

The PLEC Program is serving as a pilot program for the Connections Project in response to needs identified through extensive parent engagement and community collaboration. Initial funding for the Building Connections Project was received from an Island Health Community Wellness Grant. In 2020, the Comox Valley Community Foundation committed to a three-year funding cycle to continue the work of the project to identify innovative ideas to better support all Comox Valley families. The project is slated to expand to other areas over the next year.

“The Building Connections Project team is so grateful for the support of the CVRD, School District 71, CV Family Services Association, CV Child Development Association and all of our other supporters that are contributing to improving early years’ health and well-being,” said Building Connections project co-ordinator Kris Johnson, in a press release.

To learn more about The Building Connections Project visit the Facebook page – Building Connections for Comox Valley Families or www.cveyc.ca/connections

Visit Valley Child www.valleychild.ca or https://www.comoxvalleyrd.ca/parks-recreation for more details about the upcoming PLEC Program.

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