IT TAKES A VILLAGE

Words by Trish Weatherall
Photo by Crystal Chowdhury

Meet the organization that aims to help all Comox Valley children reach their full potential.

 
 

We’ve all heard the adage “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Now imagine we’re talking about your child. And imagine they have a special challenge to face, like autism, a physical disability, or a developmental delay. You would want the kind of support from your “village” that could help your child achieve their full potential. Wouldn’t you?

That’s where the Comox Valley Child Development Association (CVCDA) comes in. For almost half a century, this group has helped families raise children with developmental delays and diverse abilities.

The group began offering its Infant Development program and intervention therapies in 1974. Today, the CVCDA offers 17 programs, including those original core services and the Early Intervention Program which includes physical, occupational, and speech therapies. Its services have grown to include the Supported Child Development Program, the Jumpstart preschool program, The Autism Program (TAP), and early-years wellness and community programs.

Thanks to the generosity of local organizations and citizens, the CVCDA serves up to 1,000 Comox Valley children and their families annually.

“As a relative newcomer to the Comox Valley, I am in complete awe of the amount of support our agency receives,” says Cindy Xavier, executive director at the CVCDA. “It is amazing to watch and humbling to receive.”

In addition to major funders (government agencies, foundations, and service clubs), businesses who donate in-kind services and materials, and individual supporters, there are also hands-on contributors lending their valuable skills and resources.

For example, over the past three years, the CVCDA has been making improvements to its aging buildings and property on the corner of 3rd Street and Cliffe Avenue in Courtenay. There’s the accessibility project that includes two new ramps that will have a huge impact on staff and clients’ independence and safety. Another project is focused on a new upgrade to the playground that will help build skills through therapeutic play.

The local heroes who have been working to make the ramp project a reality are the Rotary Club of Comox Valley and the Courtenay and Comox Rotary Clubs, under the leadership of Rotary Club of Comox Valley past president Angela Zumbo and Rotary member Frank Zumbo.

“The way the Rotary clubs support the community is incredible,” says Xavier. “They have fun and interesting fundraisers and contribute money, but the other piece people may not see is how much they contribute in human resources, and how passionate they are about the projects they are involved in.”

The Rotary Club of Courtenay is leading the outdoor play project. This space, which didn’t previously provide protection from rain or extreme heat, will now include a shade tree, natural structures, and fun play elements—like interactive sensory panels and a sand kitchen—that help develop kids’ skills.

“A structured but natural environment is so critical for children at early stages,” explains Xavier. “It creates more opportunity for a wider variety of therapy. There’s a lot of value in how kids learn through play and it’s critical to their skills development.”

The outdoor space will be used for interactive therapy and as a family waiting area (because Covid protocols limit the number of people inside), Xavier adds. “Our teams looked not just at what the child needs, but what the whole family needs. Parents are really excited about the opportunity to use the space.”

The work on the outdoor play space is intensive, with structural landscaping to soften slope grades, a retaining wall, and improved drainage to make the area safer and more user friendly.

As project leader overseeing the site and volunteers, Chris Swift, director of fundraising at the Rotary Club of Courtenay, says, “I estimate that, upon completion, upwards of 750 volunteer hours will have been put into this project. Increasing opportunities for children to play by providing spaces that contribute to their health and education is directly in line with Rotary values, so taking on this project was a natural fit.”

Xavier credits “businesses donating in-kind services and material, the Rotary Clubs with their incredible passion and support; and our loyal community who contribute yearly to our annual Telethon,” adding, “We couldn’t have done either of these projects without this kind of support.”

The upgrades address safety and accessibility and create opportunity for a wider variety of therapy and play-based learning—all reinforced with warm feelings of collaboration in action.

“In the end, the renovation, expansion, and addition of therapeutic resources allow more space for therapies, which will help us reduce our wait times for clients,” says Xavier. “These are both such important projects, not just for the clients we service—we’re working to make our services accessible for everyone in the community.”

It all contributes to a welcoming and inclusive Comox Valley.

Isn’t that the kind of village we all want to live in? 


PROFILE OF COMMUNITY IN ACTION SPONSORED BY NORTH ISLAND UROLOGY