A rather grey fall day brings me to Portneuf to meet with Nancy Dion, coordinator of the Centre d’Entraide et de Ressources Familiales of the Portneuf area, the CERF Volant of Portneuf.
“Flying” (volant) because the organization operates across the broad Portneuf area: from Pont-Rouge, where its offices are located, to Donnacona, from Saint-Raymond to Saint-Marc-des-Carrières, including Saint-Alban, Saint-Basile, Grondines, based on needs and collaborations.
Since June 2017, the CERF Volant has been established in a new building that houses the municipal offices and about 30 other organizations in an old convent that used to belong to the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis. The premises occupied are larger, more suitable, and have resulted in, depending on the services, increased usage by families, a diverse schedule and even the return of essential services that were previously dropped due to a lack of human and material resources.
Also, this grouping of community life creates a great dynamic among the organizations, more immediate and natural referrals, they know each other better, they call on each other more easily. At the municipality level, the hub thus created is contributing to the revitalization of the city centre. A home has been provided to community organizations, recreation departments, associations, etc. in addition to giving a second life to this heritage building. The exterior has also been laid out to encourage the public to come to the site. A swimming pool, children’s play structures, picnic tables, a community garden and a large park make the location attractive and enjoyable.
Many families choose to live in the Portneuf region because, among other things, the cost of housing is lower and rural life is accessible, while still being close to Quebec City. However, the territory is large, and families and young parents are often far from the community they belong to and from their meaningful connections. They then have to rebuild a support network and develop contacts with other families.
And for that very reason, the CERF Volant takes an interest in the lives of young families. Home visits by volunteers trained to give some “Help for Mom” provide support to families and their babies who are 0 to 5 months old. If they wish, they are then invited to the “Gentle Hugs” workshop with their babies aged 0 to 12 months, which is held as a 10-week session and offered 4 times a year, in Pont-Rouge and Donnacona. This is the service that FDG funds. In addition to the topics of sleep, stimulation through play, feeding, and motor development being addressed, parents get the opportunity to meet on a regular basis, discuss their daily reality, and form connections with each other. The groups often continue to evolve independently after the sessions are over through projects such as outings, activities, or exchanges of babysitting services, for example. With the arrival of a second child, families return, having enjoyed this experience and for again having access to valuable resources in this workshop.
Other parent/children workshops such as 1,2,3…Let’s Grow Together (ages 18 months to 3 years), Little Discoveries (ages 3 to 5 years), Children’s Internal Weather (ages 3 to 5 years), Growing Up Workshops (ages 2 to 5 years), Animated Wednesdays (ages 0 to 5 years), each in their own way provide playful activities, while focusing on the parent/child relationship and the child’s overall development. In addition to that are the Community Kitchens groups, an access rights service (supervised visits and babysitting exchanges), the Parents’ Get-together workshop that covers topics chosen by the parents, while public lectures and personal follow-up provided to families using the approach of the Triple P (Positive Parenting Practices) program round out the programming.
Along with partners like the National Capital CIUSSS, day-care centres, schools, municipal recreation departments, libraries, community organizations, associations and many others, the CERF Volant has ensured an attendance of 4,176 people at its activities in 2018-2019, involving 415 parents and 420 children, and recruiting 149 families who are members of the organization.
The many referrals from partners, by word-of-mouth and through the various social media and networks, combined with a greater accommodation capacity, mean that the service offering has diversified, the funding has increased, and family participation is growing. Human resources are still the main challenge that the organization will have to overcome in the next few years, in terms of both staff and volunteers. As the coordinator, Nancy is concerned with conveying knowledge and expertise, formalizing the approach with families, and she commends the Board of Directors’ openness to recruiting an assistant coordinator to better support the team. Time has been set aside for training the workers, but also for the many volunteers, especially for the Help for Mom service.
With gratitude, we can state that, with the help of the CERF Volant of Portneuf, many families are getting a good start by providing their children with the opportunity to flourish.
October 29, 2019