By Michelle Sandsmark
Positive early childhood development is critical for youth to thrive throughout their lives. The Cities Fit For Children Summit is helping to create communities that let kids thrive.
Last November decision-makers and leaders representing a range of sectors including local government, health, and early-childhood education, convened in Vernon for the fifth biannual Cities Fit for Children Summit.
"This event was a reminder that we all have the same goals. We all want better communities for our children." - Lynne Reside
The Summit is an opportunity for leaders wanting to effect change to identify and discuss how to build thriving cities that support children in reaching their fullest potential by looking at everything they do through the lens of a child (ages 0-18).
The City of Vernon values the health and well-being of children and youth. Vernon has a Children’s Charter of Rights and enthusiastically celebrates National Child Day annually. Cities Fit for Children was a perfect match for the city’s values.
"Many people gained a greater understanding of prioritizing children and youth. They were saying ‘I never thought of it like that before!'," said Lynne Reside, Event Coordinator for Cities Fit for Children (pictured above).
Reside is a passionate visionary for this unforgettable conference. “This event was a reminder that we all have the same goals,” explained Reside, “We all want better communities for our children!” She worked closely with a planning committee to host an event that would have a lasting impression on the attendees.
The conference agenda was packed with thought-provoking discussion and inventive ideas. The keynote speakers included Paul Born, President and co-founder of the Tamarack Institute and a leader in citizen engagement and community innovation; Dr. Suzanne Crowhurst-Lennard, a researcher renowned for her work on how the built environment affects the lives of children and youth; and Dr. Paul Kershaw, who is recognized internationally for his research on family policy and is the spokesperson for Generation Squeeze.
"Many people gained a greater understanding of prioritizing children and youth. They were saying ‘I never thought of it like that before!’."
These speakers awakened a sense of determination amongst participants. “Many people gained a greater understanding of prioritizing children and youth,” said Reside. “They were saying ‘I never thought of it like that before!’".
Exhibition and Participants
The speakers were not the only ones to ignite this energy at the conference. The Maven Lane Preschoolers led an interactive drumming performance with educator Angela Roy. A series of displays also showed how things look from a child’s perspective. One display depicted photographs taken by youth on the meaning of children’s rights. Another display exhibited pictures drawn by children about what they liked about their community.
Cities Fit for Children inspired both working professionals and young leaders. The North Okanagan Optimist Club sponsored ten youth between the ages of 13 and 16 to attend the event. “This truly opened their eyes in how we connect, and how communities can work so well together,” Reside reflected.
This event changed participants’ perspectives on issues pertinent to children and youth, and will continue to do so again in 2017 and years to come. As a legacy gift to future hosts, the planning committee has developed a toolkit along with other key resources for planning a dynamic conference.
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