OAC Curious Kids initiative values diversity
OAC Curious Kids initiative values diversity
In an effort to engage children in the value of diversity, promote empathy and teach children that people with disabilities have unique skills and qualities, which we can learn from and appreciate, Only About Children (OAC) have developed the 'Curious Kids' employment program.
The program provides employment pathways for people with disabilities who wish to work in the early childhood education and care sector.
The Curious Kids initiative, developed and implemented in collaboration with disabilities services and support provider Northcott, came about after a representative from Northcott visited two OAC services to give children a lesson in sign language.
The feedback from these visits was so positive that OAC decided to develop a wider program, which has resulted in a number of casual employment opportunities for people with a disability.
OAC says participants have enthusiastically adapted to the challenges of the work and have been embraced by educators, families and children alike.
The company says providing early childhood work opportunities for people with disabilities ensures these people have the opportunity to lead and effect changes in the younger generation.
"Diversity and inclusion are core to OAC's values. Our actions in this area demonstrate to the children that everyone has something to offer, even though they may deliver it in a way that is different to what they are used to, or what society deems to be "the norm," says OAC spokesperson Kim Kane.
Kim says an important goal of the program is to ensure that when today's children are the decision makers they view people with disabilities as valuable members of society.
"Our children see these educators first and foremost, rather than their disability. This flows through to families and educators in a positive way," she says.
OAC says six participants are currently engaged in the program and they hope to expand numbers this year.
For early childhood education and care providers interested in developing their own initiative Kim offers the following advice:
"Don't look at potential educators with a disability and see what they can't do; ask yourself how they can contribute to your campus in a positive, inclusive and unique way!
There will be challenges, but address them like you would with any other employee, by talking and being open with them and together you will find the answer!"
Melissa Whitley from Parramatta participated in the Curious Kids program and says the experience meant a lot to her:
"I have always had a dream of having six kids of my own. But reality check, that's not going to happen in this lifetime. So my dream now is to work with children. I want to educate them about people in wheelchairs and teach them we aren't that scary."
Melissa's initial six week involvement including training, which involved planning sessions for preschool children and working with children at on OAC centre. After completing the training Melissa was offered an opportunity to continue working with OAC for two days per week.
"I love every moment of my days at OAC – seeing the children, playing and interacting with them and hearing all their tales that they share with me. The OAC staff also make me feel included and very welcome.
I might get poked in the eye with a pencil, or sand all over my tray. I never know what my little friends are going to get up to, but I love a good surprise and to see the smiles on their faces. I am truly in my glory and living my dream!" she said.
Six OAC campuses are currently participating in the program: Market Street, Concord, Fairlight 1, Norton Street, Enmore and North Parramatta.
Watch Melissa's video here.
OAC have created a short film for the 2017 Corporate Social Responsibility Film Festival about the Curious Kids initiative.
This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Wednesday, 14 October 2020
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