In 1984, the Mother-Child Home Program — later to become the Parent-Child Home Program (PCHP) — was introduced in Brandon by social worker Lorraine McLaren, and delivered through Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba.
Over the past 30 years, hundreds of families in Brandon and Westman have benefited from this unique early literacy program.
The main purpose of the program is to strengthen the relationship between parent and child, and to support the parent in their role as their child’s first and most important teacher.
It is a two-year program that begins when the child is between the ages of 18 to 36 months. A trained volunteer, called a Home Visitor, goes into the family’s home for a half hour, twice a week, for 23 weeks. These visits happen between October and April, and ideally the same Home Visitor remains with the family for two years.
Each week, the Home Visitor brings a different book or toy and models for the parent by playing, talking and reading with the parent and child. Children learn through play, and much of this learning takes place in the home long before a child is ready to enter school.
The PCHP has many locations in the U.S., and several in other countries around the world, but the Brandon site is the only one in Canada.
It is also one of very few sites that uses trained volunteer Home Visitors rather than paid employees. This not only allows the program to run on a small budget, but provides a wonderful volunteer opportunity for many people, including retirees and university or college students.
The PCHP is currently recruiting new volunteers for September. If you are interested in learning more about becoming a volunteer Home Visitor, please contact the program co-ordinator at 204-726-7143 or the volunteer coordinator at 204-726-7178.
A recent letter from a former PCHP Home Visitor beautifully sums up the power of the program:
"When I was home this winter I went to visit my former PCHP mom and child. The child is growing so fast and her English is quite impressive! When she first saw me (I thought she might be somewhat shy — not a chance!), she yanked me into the living room and said she wanted to read me a story.
"We curled up in a chair and she proceeded to read me ‘Five Little Monkeys’ perfectly. When she finished (and I had tears in my eyes), she asked if I thought she had done a good job, and if she could read another one.
For the next half hour she went through every book she could find from the PCHP, singing the songs and using all the actions I had introduced her to.
"When she had read everything, she said, ‘Thank you for teaching me English. I love reading!’ Mom was beaming, I was teary-eyed; it was a proud moment for me."
On Tuesday, June 10, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., there will be a celebration of 30 years of serving the community for both the Parent-Child Home Program and the Elspeth Reid Family Resource Centre. This will take place at the Family Resource Centre, 255-9th Street.
Current and former PCHP families and volunteers, as well as anyone wishing to learn more about the program, are welcome to come for refreshments, entertainment and a visit.
Shawna Munro works at the Elspeth Reid Family Resource Centre, a facility of Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba that offers parenting information and support.
» 255 Ninth St., Brandon