By Geneviève April
During National Children’s Day, Nov. 20, Chomedey’s Maison des enfants Le Dauphin used the occasion to raise awareness of the fact that more than 38 percent of Chomedey families and 39 percent of its youth live in poverty, according to Centraide’s 2011 census.
“We hear more about No Make-up Day than the National Children’s Day, which highlights the Nov. 20, 1980, signature of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child,” said Maison le Dauphin assistant director Chantale Gignac.
To underline this important event, Maison le Dauphin teamed up with St. Norbert students in a march calling for their rights to be respected. More than 600 students, staff and partners took to the streets for 30 minutes to show their support for kids whose rights are all-too-often ignored or scoffed at.
For 18 years now, Maison le Dauphin has offered support and comfort to Chomedey youth. Through the Morning Without tears, aimed at up to five-year-old kids and their parents, and the afternoon refuge for six to 12-year-olds, where they can get help with their homework, eat a healthy snack and participate in various activities, kids have access to a supportive and healthy environment they often lack at home.
English volunteers needed
Maison le Dauphin also offers a courier service, Lettre à un Dauphin, where children from 22 Laval schools can write a letter to a volunteer who will reply with a confidential, supportive and non-judgemental letter.
The service is currently offered only in French schools. Maison le Dauphin wants to extend it to all Laval schools — French and English — but lacks the volunteers to provide the service in English.
“We don’t segregate kids. Any child who comes here can eat, get help with homework or talk with a member of our team,” said Gignac. “We don’t check whether the kid comes from a poor family or not, for the hardships that they face aren’t always financial. Many have to deal with several challenges at once: new to the country, poor, violence at home and stressed parent. Whatever the community we hail from, we’re more alike than we think, so we welcome all kids and their parents to come and meet with us.”
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