As I arrived at the Chilliwack Neighbourhood Learning Centre on May 3, 2019, I was already impressed. The Neighbourhood Learning Centre (NLC) is an integrated hub model and a fresh, bright facility that provides the space for community programming, a day care, and educational opportunities for both School District staff and members of the general public. This vibrant hub was buzzing with activity as the Chilliwack Child and Youth Committee (CYC) kicked off their 26th annual Conversation on Chilliwack’s Children.
This year’s event was focused on incorporating nature in the clients journey of development, growth and healing and several local initiatives were profiled throughout the day. Sessions presented included learning about Eco therapy and the importance of broadening our understanding of human, nature relationships, of the value of risky play and open air learning for children and an indigenous perspective on the connection to land, mountains and water. Steve Esau, keynote speaker, also provided an engaging address about the importance and value of our relationship to nature—he spoke of his experiments with plant leaves on a window sill to his work in addictions and trauma, to him conducting a heart warming interview with someone around the healing benefit of being on a farm and connecting with animals and nature.
All of these topic areas combined with the enthusiasm and local commitment of the overall community and local decision makers make Chilliwack the perfect next host for the 2020 Cities Fit for Children Summit. I was pleased to speak with Mayor Ken Popove about their inspiring demonstration of commitment to making connections to the natural environment as well as creating conditions for their children and youth to thrive. Together, we made the public announcement that Chilliwack was selected as the next host municipality as a way to launch the event to take place next spring.
Inspired by the UN Convention on the Rights of Children, the Cities Fit for Children Summit creates a space for the discussion of every aspect of communities from the lens of a child ages zero to 18. The event draws a dynamic mix of local government and non-profit leaders, recreation programmers, social and community planners, early childhood practitioners, youth workers, engineers, and policy makers as exhibitors, speakers and attendees.This biannual event that has taken place since 2007 as has been hosted in Kelowna, Langley, Kamloops, Surrey and Vernon. As the steward organization for this event, BC Healthy Communities is excited to work with Chilliwack for 2020. Chilliwack’s Cities Fit for Children is planned to take place as the 27th annual Conversation on Chilliwack’s Children and will be a larger event that showcases examples of policies, programs, processes that support municipalities to plan and take action to create thriving environments for Children and Youth, with focus on the natural environment.
Stay tuned for more information about the event in the near future.
Jodi Mucha is the Executive Director of BC Healthy Communities.