Registration nights for Moorelands BLAST After-school Programs often prove to be real eye openers. Take a registration night at the bustling Grenoble Public School in Flemingdon Park for example. We’ve been delivering programs at this school of 1000 students since 1998 and each year, the demand for our programs has grown. Usually 2 registration nights are held and any remaining spots are filled during the first week of the program. This year was very different! When we arrived early for our 6.00 p.m. registration night we were shocked to see a line of people stretching out the door and half way around the school – more than 200 people had lined up to sign up their children for available spots.
As we frantically set up, the school’s staff informed us that people had started queuing at 2.30 p.m. There were parents, older siblings, grandparents, friends of the family and little children who had stayed on After-school with their parents, so families could secure space in the program. Hard working parents who are unable to afford childcare are desperate for a safe space for their children to be after school. Moorelands After-school Programs provide a nutritious snack and creative activities that help children develop self esteem and life-skills while having a lot of fun. Children are also supported in language learning and academics through homework help and literacy programs. The children in our programs soak up new experiences and are never afraid to make mistakes or try new things
Everyone in the line-up was incredibly patient. No one broke into line; no one became angry or protested about having to wait. People helped each other to complete the forms, even though they were strangers to one and other. People frequently stepped forward to assist with language interpretation even after they had registered and needed to get home themselves. As the spaces started to fill rapidly, the line still grew. In what seemed like moments, we were down to the last two After-school spaces. As we watched in shock, the woman who was next in line stepped aside to allow the person behind her to register his child, as he desperately needed to leave. As a result of her generosity, she was unable to register her own children because they were twins and they wanted to go together. She did not complain or protest.
All the spaces were filled in an hour and a half and another 10 children were put on a waiting list. We turned away many other deeply disappointed and desperate families with sadness and a sense of the overwhelming need for more programs such as this. And yet, frustration was not the only outcome. We left learning that while the community of Flemingdon Park might have a lack of resources, they were rich in mutual respect and support. The Moorelands After-school program at Grenoble is but a small piece in the fabric of this school and this community and yet an essential and sorely needed one.