Online conferencing and toy deliveries keep youngsters of Bourke connected
For many children and families in New South Wales the conditions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated a sense of loneliness and isolation.
Those living in regional and remote communities are more likely to feel this deeply, and as such, early childhood education and care (ECEC) providers are working overtime to maintain children’s learning and sense of belonging during the challenges of the pandemic.
Despite being more than 750 km west of Sydney’s CBD, the regional town of Bourke has seen the worst of the Delta outbreak, with more than 100 cases detected in Bourke Shire, many in vulnerable First Nations communities.
As a result, many of the services the town relies on, including early childhood education and care (ECEC) have shifted to an online delivery mode. Recently Prue Ritchie, Consultant General Manager at Bourke and District’s Children’s Services, spoke with the ABC about the organisation’s experience during the pandemic.
Bourke and District’s Children’s Services is a not-for-profit organisation that caters for children and young people, offering a childcare service, a preschool, and a mobile children’s service which delivers ECEC directly to families and communities up to 250 km from Bourke.
“When the lockdown started, we looked at all of our different services, and how they interacted with the families we do see, and how it could meet their needs,” Ms Ritchie told the ABC. The organisation examined the needs of families, and worked to provide meaningful activities for children that would not place an extra burden on already pressured families.
After this consultation phase, the team created packs which include a number of craft activities and toys to support children to develop fine motor skills, with online playgroups also created to ensure the vital social connections were maintained.
The playgroups involve music, singing, dancing and creative activities, which are also made available for families to access outside of designated playgroup time, allowing for flexibility around other needs in the home.
With preschools not operating, a number of larger toys and pieces of equipment have been made available to families, so that children can develop gross motor skills as well.