Community groups and service providers are banding together to better serve the growing western communities.
Called the Village Initiative, its premise is that “it takes a village to raise a child,” according to director Cindy Andrew. Andrew said the focus is to ensure that there are enough public spaces for community groups to run programs for kids.
When a survey was conducted last year looking at community groups’ ability to provide services, 15 different groups said space was the biggest barrier to providing services. Based on that survey, Andrew estimated those groups could provide activities and services for 8,500 more people if there were more community spaces.
“Schools provide vital service. In many respects working in partnership with community partners to better meet needs, just makes good sense. So it’s not rocket science and it’s not like people haven’t been collaborating – I think there’s just a recognition that with growing investment we need to look at how do we do things differently to make sure that we’re better meeting the needs and keeping pace with growth.”
The Village Initiative is a network of more than 40 community service organizations, including the Sooke School District, Island Health, and United Way South Vancouver Island – the organization’s main funder. Initially, the organization had been branded Healthy Schools, Healthy People, but Andrew said that narrowed the focus too much towards schools.
The organization won’t become a service provider itself, but Andrew said they are set to advocate for more spaces and work on making more community spaces multi-purpose and encouraging community groups to share space.
“It’s going to take people being creative, it’s going to take service providers saying we’re willing, we’ll share space. The problem is when you’re talking about services that are geared to children, youth and families, they often run at about the same time. So sharing space – there’s a challenge – but I think there’s, there’s a need for us to get creative to explore doing things differently.”
Andrew said the organization would try to work with all levels of government but is focused on local solutions.
“The one thing that I think that people need to be thinking about – in particular municipalities – are we keeping pace on the health and social planning front of growing our communities? And if we’re not, we need to because there are some flags on the field that are indicating we’ve got work to do.”