Written by Natalie Alexander
The practice of community building is one that creates a sense of place through the joint action of citizens who work together with a common interest. Community is all about the people and a healthy community is socially connected.
The ongoing commitment to build community through joint action is a credit to the small community library, which is the star of this story.
In Part 1, this story showcased how a small library was fostering strong community connections to support young families with children transition to formal schooling.
After identifying and assessing the needs of parents with young children, members of the library committee engaged in some collaborative discussions with the local kindergarten and primary school to develop some educational workshops for parents.
A model of partnership
The aim of the workshops was to help parents of young children to transition to formal schooling.
Understanding that parents were often daunted by this transition, the library volunteers wanted to bridge the transition for young families to get ready for school. By collaborating intentionally with relevant community members, the library volunteers had developed strong relationships with the school, the community and the kindergarten.
With all the planning and collaboration under their belt, the library volunteers were unsuccessful in their application to apply for funding to hold the workshops. It was an unexpected hurdle, which delayed their plans.
However, as the library volunteers knew they had the community support for the proposed project, a skilled library volunteer tackled new funding applications. A successful grant from a local women’s community association soon enabled the library to deliver the proposed parent workshops.
Parents spread the word and numbers grow
With excitement and trepidation, in 2015 the library volunteers launched a 10-week Early Childhood Program for parents in the community. This was a bold step for the volunteers to plan and deliver such needed parental workshops within their community. The volunteers joined with teachers, allied health therapists and other community members to deliver school readiness workshops.
Initially only two young women and their children attended the library’s first workshops. Seeing the value of the workshops, these young mothers suggested they would develop an advertising campaign that would better explain the purpose of the workshops. It was to their credit that their efforts to promote the workshops proved to be successful and the number of participants quickly grew.
As the workshops continued, more young parents began attending and by the end of the 10 weeks, 17 mothers and their children had participated. For these new parents, who were unfamiliar with more formal school environments, the library provided an ideal relaxed and welcoming setting for parents and children to gather, connect and learn.
Thumbs up from school principal
Feedback from all stakeholders gathered at the end of 2015 indicated that the workshops had made a discernible difference for the families who attended.
In early 2016, the library volunteers were delighted when the school principal approached them to request ongoing workshops to be rolled out. The library volunteers quickly rallied around and successfully secured more funding. This time, with the approved funds the library was able to:
- employ a person to care for the children while the parents participated in the program
- purchase toys, equipment and resources for parents to use during the program
- use the purchased resources as part of the library’s permanent collection for the use of other families in the wider community.
What a journey for the volunteers of this library!
- In 2014 they identified a need in the community and creatively sought ways to respond to that need by designing these workshops.
- After navigating the art of successful grant writing, the volunteers effectively delivered the parent workshops in 2015.
- Then in 2016, they were encouraged when the school principal expressed a desire for the workshops to continue. With increased confidence, the volunteers launched the 2016 workshops, which were once again well attended.
Part 3 next week: Thousands of dollars were saved thanks to the dedication of the community members who contributed their time and expertise to deliver the workshops.