Charting the Success of the Equitas’ Play it Fair! Program
National Child Day (November 20) is fast approaching. Every year in the lead up to National Child Day, the City of Surrey in B.C. hosts a Kids Conference in partnership with community organizations like Equitas, to celebrate children in their community.
The Surrey Kids Conference is a fun event where children get to participate in a diverse array of activities and their parents join them for dinner on the first day. The conference is just one of the exciting things that the City of Surrey does to promote children’s participation and well-being.
Since 2012, Equitas has been partnering with the City of Surrey, using Play it Fair!, human rights value-based activities, to get children on board for being leaders for promoting respect for diversity in their community. Play it Fair! activities are also a part of the Kids Conference event. As we are getting closer to this event, we talked with two women leaders from City of Surrey.
“We have now trained 700 staff over the last four years; each year we train 175 staff” said Daljit Gill-Badesha, Healthy Communities & Child-Youth Manager at the City of Surrey speaking about Play it Fair! Daljit sets the children-friendly strategies for the City of 500,000 residents.
The Play it Fair! toolkit is designed to help engage children in their communities, and to guide their growth and understanding of human rights values (e.g. respect, cooperation, acceptance). All staff working with children aged 6-12 in day camps, summer camps, or afterschool programs at the City of Surrey have learned the interactive activities, educational approach from Play it Fair!( PiF).
Incorporating PiF, Daljit said, was initially a means of supplementing the children’s educational toolkit High Five. It has since been welcomed wholeheartedly by staff who find it particularly useful in Surrey’s after-school program, MyZone.
“The MyZone program used PiF to great success with the Kindness Counts! project,” Daljit pointed out. Kindness Counts is a part of PiF community action project that gets children into their communities and engages children to take on leadership roles to express what is important to them, and learn how to make a change in their community.
The Kindness Counts project created space for inter-generational community connections. Children got together with seniors, and supported the local food bank to address hunger and poverty in the community. Play it Fair! doesn’t just shine because it strengthens communities, but it also strengthens individual bonds between children and adults in their lives.
“We know school-age children deserve at least one non-related adult who thinks the world of them, and ideally five,” said Daljit. “When my staff teams are engaging with our young children in that way, I know that we are helping to shape children’s trajectories for life. We’re having influence and impact. And that is just so rewarding on so many levels.”
An example of the power of PiF can be found in the experience of Rajdeep Kandola, MYzone Program Coordinator in Surrey:
“We have a participant in our program that has special needs and is accompanied by a support staff” Rajdeep said.“When this child participates in activities with other children, he has spontaneous outburst of excitement or anger. These outbursts often make other children uncomfortable—they either fear him or find his outbursts amusing.
Over time, children began to push him out of their groups because they thought he was annoying. Though activity leaders and support staff spoke with the other children, they didn’t quite understand that this behaviour wasn’t something the boy could control, and wasn’t something anybody should be socially ostracized for.
“Staff then decided to use activities from the PiF toolkit,” she said “to try and bring the point home in a more interactive, empathetic way. After playing I have a Disability – an activity from Play it Fair! which creates a structured, interactive learning space facilitated by staff for children to understand each other’s needs. The change was significant. “Children learned to adapt their activities to fit his needs,” Rajdeep said. And also, “the outbursts from the child are also less frequent as he seems more comfortable amongst his peers.”
That’s the serious power of hands-on, interactive, child-centered learning.
“What Play it Fair! does is it becomes a springboard for talking to kids about the importance of these kinds of behaviours and actions,” Daljit said. “Staff have really taken ownership of the program, and are invested in guiding the future growth of PiF in Surrey.”
“We’re getting questions from staff like: ‘Can we have the toolkit in Arabic?’” Daljit said—like many communities across Canada Surrey has seen an influx of Syrian refugees. Teachers and youth workers feel PiF is so adaptable that it can help newcomers feel welcome, maybe even by incorporating games children played in their home countries into learning activities.
Play it Fair! is available in Arabic, English and French.
“In a rapidly growing and diversifying city like Surrey, staff feel better equipped by having the toolkit available to them to use as they see fit. To do what makes sense, more than what a fixed curriculum would dictate.” said Daljit.
“The people you have, they are so committed. It’s amazing.” She pointed to the long support Equitas has shown Surrey as indicative of a unique relationship between organizations.
“There are so many different things we have done with Equitas,” she said. “We did the Postcards to Parliament Activity at the Kids Conference a couple years ago, we participated in Equitas community action projects—that’s where the Kindness Counts! came from.”
Referring to the community action projects, Daljit said the city received one-time funding to get Kindness Counts! up and running, but with Equitas’ help they were able to sustain it for years. “It’s that injection of support, it really helps create an environment that cultivates a different kind of thinking.”
It helps that Surrey already cultivates the kind of thinking we like. “The Equitas values of inclusion, fair play and empowering and educating, those really line up with the City values. Teamwork, building community, working together, and having integrity – guide the City of Surrey’s mission.I think the visions of both of our organizations really marry well together”
It wouldn’t be possible alone. We are so grateful for our community partners who work each and every day to support children’s healthy development and promote children’s rights. If you are in Surrey this weekend, we hope to see you at the Surrey Kids Conference!
For more information, please visit http://www.surrey.ca/culture-recreation/15588.aspx
The Play it Fair! program is made possible thanks to the active participation of Equitas partners across Canada and the generous financial support of the TD Bank Group, United Way of the Lower Mainland (BC), The City of Montreal, the Quebec Ministry of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion, The MK Social Justice Fund at the Foundation of Greater Montreal and The Edith Lando Charitable Foundation.
By Carl Bindman, Equitas Communications intern, Fall 2016