United Way Early Childhood Development Settlement Program Wins 2013 Premier’s Award

United Way’s First Steps Early Childhood Development Settlement Program deservingly receives Premier’s Award

An early childhood program founded and funded in part by United Way of the Lower Mainland has won a 2013 Premier’s Award. First Steps Early Childhood Development Settlement Program is a pilot project to help newly arrived government-assisted refugee children and their caregivers prepare for and adjust to a new life in Canada. First Steps is the only initiative of its kind in B.C., and it provides special services through several programs that meet the unique language and cultural needs of the diverse populations it serves. 

One such program is Hand in Hand, which is run by Umoja Operation Compassion Society in Surrey. The program is designed to strengthen and nurture refugee families, help minimize the impact of trauma and support the growth and development of children. It has helped families like Sandra and her two boys: four-year-old-Moses and 14-month-old Alex.

Before coming to Canada, Sandra spent four years in a refugee camp in Namibia. “I was forced to flee Congo because of the war,” she says. Today, the family lives in a small apartment in Surrey on just $1,400 a month. After spending $900 on rent, they are left with very little. Thanks to programs like Hand in Hand, Sandra and her boys are getting the help they need to succeed.

One in five children in B.C. lives in poverty. Many children who live in poverty do not have adequate emotional support, stimulation or nutritious food. These deprivations often have negative impacts on young children’s health and development, especially during the critical early years. Offering children a better start creates positive impacts that are realized throughout their lives.

United Way helps break the cycle of poverty by investing in early learning, teaching parenting skills and providing services so that children like Moses and Alex get the best start in life. In 2012, United Way invested $4.8 million in programs and agencies geared towards children from birth to age six.

Find out here how you can help prevent poverty.