INVERNESS COUNTY: There is a quote being shared on Facebook by Dave Hollis, that says, “In the rush to return to normal, let’s use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”

This is something to contemplate as individuals, families, and from a community perspective.

Let’s go one step further and explore what the new norm should include. The evidence is clear that a new norm should prioritize the healthy development of all children. Why; for the reason that many life-long, physical, and mental health outcomes are set before the age of three. How; by engaging citizens in developing local support that ensures equity from the start of life for all citizens.

The story from ancestors is that food security was a community priority tied into each season, and large extended families ensured the nurturing support for children was woven into each day. Until recently, that norm was the foundation for thousands of generations.

Raising the Villages is working to increase awareness of the critical importance of the early years and to create a call to action to develop pilots of “Welcoming Community Spaces” across western Cape Breton for the youngest citizens and their care givers to connect to what they need from the beginning of life. These spaces will be inclusive to all community members encouraging inter-generational relationships.

With these unprecedented times of social isolation, accompanied by a global economy that looks to be headed for a recession, everyone is wondering what the fallout will be. Who will be most affected and how? How long will it last? What will be lost? And what will be the focus as society emerges?

Some of the focus should include the need of a pre-natal mother to share the journey of pregnancy, the need of an infant for consistent nurturing and attachment, the need of a young parent to have support, and the need of a community to help. All these basic needs are being tested during this time of social isolation. The challenge faced by communities is to reimagine how to emerge with new norms, to take care of others when unable to gather physically.

If “it takes a village to raise a child,” what does it take to gather and take care of the village? How does a responsive community support each other on a social, emotional, physical, economic, and cultural level with all the unknowns? How can the process of collective action around the needs of youngest citizens be guided? Can society come out of this ensuring that the early years are a priority for planning and actions? Knowing that the early years are the foundation for the future health and prosperity of all citizens, finding the new “norm” is vital.

The mission of the Regional Early Years Coalition (REYC) is to gather the village. The coalition will help guide the collective process for inclusive action. With social distancing still in effect, the next gathering of the REYC will be on Zoom on Friday, May, 29 at 11 a.m. An invitation is extended to all (professionals working in support roles, parents, and caregivers) who are passionate about the early years. To join this virtual gathering, or for more information, contact councillor Jim Mustard at: jim.mustard@invernesscounty.ca by Friday, May, 22.

Raising the Villages can be contacted by e-mail at: raisingthevillages@gmail.com.