HIPPY program helps new Canadians to become kids’ first teachers
Teaching new Canadians to be their toddlers’ first teachers gives benefits far beyond the schoolwork they cover, says the petit former accountant who now runs a HIPPY Canada program in Red Deer.
Recruited by the Central Alberta Immigrant Women’s Association, Mercedes Cruz took charge in summer of its Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters program as a means of helping both the children and their caregivers.
CAIWA calls them caregivers, because it isn’t always the moms who are taking part, but can be other members of an immigrant family who are raising the children and could use some help being introduced into their new communities, says Cruz.
CAIWA has run a HIPPY Canada program for about five years, with the Citizenship and Immigration Canada funding 55 families a year in Red Deer and the surrounding region, says Cruz.
Geared at helping caregivers prepare their children for school, the HIPPY program she co-ordinates is set up specifically for newcomers who are awaiting Canadian citizenship.
To be eligible, the caregivers must be on permanent resident status with children aged from three to five years old.
The program is run from October through June, divided into a number of modules in which home visitors work with the caregivers to provide instruction to the children.
Because of the way it is set up, the program goes well beyond showing caregivers how to be their children’s first teachers, says Cruz.
Born and raised in the Philippines, she is familiar with the isolation and hardship young women face when they leave their families behind to take jobs in Canada.
Cruz had to leave a four-year-old daughter — now a young adult — to take her first job here.
She recalls the incredible loneliness she felt in those days, sitting in a shopping mall, searching faces and not seeing anyone familiar.
Such isolation is extremely difficult for someone who is accustomed to having a large extended family at home along with a wide circle of friends, says Cruz, whose children have since joined her in Canada.
While she is still familiarizing herself with the ins and outs of HIPPY, Cruz says she has found it an invaluable way of helping newcomers make friends and break out of the isolation they feel when they move into a new community, far from home.
Already this year, she has a waiting list of people who would like to take part in the program as soon as their children reach the minimum age of three years old. And she is hopeful that CIC funding will increase so more families both within Red Deer and from the surrounding area can be brought into the program.
On Nov. 20 and 21, she and fellow HIPPY Canada workers will meet in Calgary to learn more about their program and to help in its ongoing development.
Please visit www.hippycanada.ca and www.caiwa.ca to learn more.