Changing times, shifting priorities
Blog from the Emergency Child Care for Essential Workers outpost:
It’s a blustery, unseasonably cold May morning. Today I am up before sunrise, answering the call to action to cover at our Y’s Emergency Child Care program. That means coffee made, snacks packed, cats fed, mask on and out the door by 6:00am! I welcome a break from a day of Zoom calls and emails in my home office, as I settle into my 45–minute commute back to the more familiar, but very changed, world of in–person work.
When I arrive at Peanut Shell Early Childhood Learning Center, the health screening tent is set up and my colleagues are in place to start receiving the first children of the day. The children have adapted surprisingly well to the routine, letting Nurse Val take their temperature without fuss, while I complete the daily health log. The parents answer the now familiar questions about whether they have any symptoms of cough, fever or shortness of breath or close contact with anyone with Covid-19 in a pleasant, matter of fact manner before handing over their children, and heading off to a work day on the front lines of the pandemic.
This is has become our new normal. When our Y had to close its’ doors to members, we were grateful to still be able to provide valuable support through child care. Our Emergency Child Care program serves children from 6 months to 11 years of age. We have adapted the spaces in the child care center to meet the new guidelines mandated by the State of New Jersey. A classroom that was once full of soft furnishings and toys, now appears sparse with one chair per table and only those toys that can be easily sanitized left out. A school age child understands the change, and besides, they are busy with remote learning, engrossed in their Chrome Books every morning, participating in Google Meets with their teachers, completing assignments each day. It’s much harder for the toddlers to comprehend social distancing. They naturally flock together, exploring their surroundings with their hands and senses. Now more than ever, we need to find ways to engage with children in a hands-on way. It’s easy to focus on all the things we cannot do, but gardening is one of the things we can do that provides more than just the joy of watching something grow, it’s an opportunity to get back to nature, to bond with our family. Happiness is hands in the dirt!
While our energy has been diverted during these unusual times, we are still working on the original plan for the grant, but with a new twist. We are recruiting St. Cloud participants from the Y’s Before and After School program participants to become a part of a Virtual Community Gardening experiment. The seedlings that were started by our gardener Cherie continue to flourish and we are ready to provide tips, guidance and plants to interested families. Will report on our progress next blog!
About the Grantee
The West Essex YMCA, a Branch of the Metro YMCA of the Oranges, is a mission driven organization and trusted community partner in youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. The Y has been serving the needs of the community for over 50 years, providing a wide variety of activities and programs in an environment welcoming all.