Q&A with Rebecca Fitzsimmons

Rebecca Fitzsimmons, Community Liaison, Central Peace Early Childhood Coalition

Established in 2011, Central Peace Early Childhood Coalition (CPECC) is one of nearly 100 coalitions formed across the province. They work to raise public awareness about the importance of the early years and make positive, informed contributions to discussions of how policies, programs and other supports can be improved to promote the well-being of young children and families. The coalition focus is to work with and within their communities to ensure a healthy start for children, where they will have the skills needed to realize their full developmental potential when they enter school and carry them through their academic careers, on into their lifelong experiences.

To support the children, they must support their parents, as well as others caring for children. Children need nurturing, stable environments to learn, grow and thrive. Safe, supportive communities are key to supporting the families, as well as a stable environment.

Q: How long have you been with CPECC and what are all the roles you have performed?
A: I have been interested in early childhood for many years, and the position of community liaison was a natural fit for me. I joined CPECC in this capacity in the late fall of 2015 and I have the pleasure of working with local community groups, supporting families and early years professionals in the region, as well as advocating at the local and provincial levels of government. I organize, report, innovate, problem-solve, connect, support…I love the variety and the opportunity for creativity. I am constantly learning about emergent research concerning the early years, and speaking up for a demographic that is entirely dependent on adults. I think about these children growing up to be our future leaders and I cannot think of a more important group to focus on.

How does CPECC work with other organizations within the Central Peace?
We are passionate about partnership. We have collaborated in various ways and at numerous events with other community organizations and agencies concerned with healthy community. We work extensively with other community groups to connect people, programs, and organizations to one another. We know that it takes a village to raise our children – we value and strive to support others who are focused on supporting our communities through positive actions and initiatives. Our coalition is concerned with all aspects of health and wellness of our youngest members and we know that their health is intrinsically connected with and depends upon the health of every other person in their “village”. Our communities are made up of people 0-100+, so it makes sense to support others who are working to support the broad aspects of health and wellness in other generations. Our greatest strength lies in the opportunities to work with other groups.

What are some of the different programs offered and activities hosted?
We have several key projects and programs that we coordinate throughout the Central Peace that include Think Equal, initiated in northern Alberta by our coalition, which is a global initiative that is a literacy-based social-emotional development program delivered by preschool and kindergarten teachers to children in their classrooms with the mission “to create a safe, free and equal world”. Another one is STEAMbox, a project that has been long in development and is now available to children 2-6 years old that has involved partnering with FCSS agencies in the Central Peace to create free kits that include science and crafting activities, along with physical literacy and caregiver information, all of which is delivered through the libraries.

We have organized National Child Day Celebrations over the last couple of years. These events are child-focused and are designed to celebrate our children with the exuberance that we hope they each can experience in their own lives. We value our children and want them to know they are important. Promoting the importance of literacy is a high priority. So, we also have placed Little Bookshelves with participating partners throughout the Central Peace. These books can be read onsite, borrowed, shared, kept or returned, and hopefully enjoyed. This is an initiative to increase awareness around the importance of literacy, and to give children an alternative activity to screen time, which science tells us is detrimental to brain development.

What is your greatest success story?
We have a hard-working committed group of dedicated volunteers who are the key to any success we experience. Our greatest success lies in the collaborative connections and support systems that we are so fortunate to have established with our municipalities, with our libraries, with other local community groups, our school divisions and schools, preschools and kindergartens. These partnerships enable us to continue moving forward and help to fulfil our mandate.

What types of challenges does the organization face?
As many groups from this area know and experience first-hand, the geographic region is large, which poses challenges for us to be effectively present in all corners of our region with frequency. We struggle to get our message out to the communities that are remote and rural, and to bring our information to the families – the caregivers directly caring for the youngest members of our communities. We are fortunate to have some programing in our communities from our libraries, schools and groups such as Parent Link, PALS and Family Education Services, but we lack the frequency, particularly in the outlying areas, that would support and reinforce our message. We do advocate when possible for increased services for our families, and support others who are providing support and programming. We welcome new faces, new ideas and new members to our table.

Do you have any goals you’d like to see achieved in the future?
Ultimately, we are striving to have a thriving enthusiastic community of people eagerly supporting our children. We want to see our children experience quality positive social and emotional development, academic success and physical health. We will continue to create information opportunities for caregivers. We hope to increase programming opportunities and our connections to the outlying areas. We aim to increase involvement and commitment from our municipalities and want to establish a child-focused culture of priority around the early years.