Through the growth and expansion of licensed daycare facilities in area communities, the non-profit organization once known as the Hamiota Kids Club Inc., is now known as Villages United Early Learning Centre Inc. (VUELC).
Enrolment numbers prompted the expansion in Hamiota, along with opening new centres in the neighbouring communities of Kenton and Oak River. Strathclair came about at the request of the Park West School Division to meet the needs of that community. The original licensed daycare in Hamiota opened in 2004, with expansion four years later, with the purchase and renovation of the Manitoba Department of Agriculture building. In 2008, the building housing the VUELC’s 20-space nursery school program and the Hamiota facility’s 20-space school-age program, was officially opened as well as the facility in the former Kenton School.
“From there growth continued, opening other satellite locations in the Oak River School in 2013, and in the Strathclair School in 2015,” said Jen Sims, executive director, VUELC. “At present we are licensed for 112 spaces in total and they are not all full at the moment in every facility.”
Sims, who has been involved since joining the board in 2003, said VUELC strives to accommodate the needs of every family without insisting families pay for a full-time space when they don’t require full-time care.
“We are not full in every program as every day can be very different when we are accommodating different parents’ needs and schedules,” said Sims. “Often the programs are full to capacity, but always call if you are looking for care.”
All VUELC facilities combined have a total of 17 full time, six part time, two casual high school students, five substitutes and two summer students, among the employees. A provincial licensing co-ordinator working out of Brandon visits on a regular basis to monitor and ensure all regulations are being followed. Facilities are also inspected yearly by Public Health and the fire inspector.
Through an extensive list of trained, long-term staff, strict adult-to-child ratios are followed at all points in the day.
“There is never a dull moment in our day,” said Sims. “It’s not only about care per se, as staff lend an ear to stories from home, a helping hand to wipe a tear or to teach children how to tie their shoes, and knowledge about differences in ourselves, our communities and our world.
“We appreciate every opportunity to learn from the children and to share what we know with them on a daily basis,” Sims said. “As large employers in small communities, we take pride in providing opportunities for high school students to earn some spending money, at a job that puts school and school events first. With the hope of growing future early childhood educators, VUELC has been successful, with students returning as young adults.”
Sims says there are currently about 100 families enrolled, and the need for childcare will always be there.
“The reality of the world is that parents work, and grandparents work — children need care. High-quality, licensed early-learning centres are essential for children and families for a variety of reasons, the most important being the safety of the children and the education of the children during the first five years when brain development is crucial. We are proud of employees who put their heart and soul into the day-to-day lives of youngsters of our communities.”