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Ecolint's welcome centre for children of first responders

vendredi, 1 mai 2020   (0 Comments)
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Since the school closed down and learning moved online, a small team of teachers and staff members have taken on a special challenge: to offer a welcome centre for primary students whose parents are fighting the coronavirus pandemic. We caught up with Valerie Hilen (Classroom Assistant, Pregny Reception Class) and Sharon Gonsalves (After-School Care Coordinator and ESP teaching assistant, Pregny), who are at the root of this effort, and asked them a few questions about the project and their experience. 


Can you describe the project; what it is you are doing at Pregny for students whose parents are busy fighting the coronavirus pandemic?
We are providing support to now sixteen children, who come from the primary schools of all three campuses, and whose parents are working either in the medical field or directly on the coronavirus pandemic.

And how did the idea come about?

We knew that some of our parents were working either at the World Health Organization, the Red Cross or at the Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève, and we were wondering how the Foundation could help them. In helping these parents, we wanted to make our own small contribution to what is now a global fight. Ecolint’s Director General, Dr. Hawley, adapted the notion of a “service minimum” structure, open to children of essential workers, to the Ecolint environment. This service is actually a legal obligation in the Swiss Public School system.

What were the steps in getting this set up, and what challenges did you have to overcome?
The first step was to find the location. Pregny is ideal, because it is centrally situated, at the middle point between the other two campuses. It is also just the right size for the type of structure we needed. 
We then had to define the criteria allowing students to apply, and find staff to run the Service.
Staffing was, and still is, a big challenge, because it has to be completely voluntary. Trying to support ten different online programs is also quite hard, so altogether the logistics are the main challenge. We actually had to decide this week to streamline the Receptions and Pre-Reception learning: we now have 8 students in Early Years, with 5 different learning programs. 

Can you share a particularly moving moment?
There are several, but two come to mind:
One boy from LGB told us that even though Covid-19 is really bad, it has allowed him to discover Pregny, and for that he was thankful.
And then this morning, there were two girls from LGB, one from Campus des Nations, and two boys from LGB, all different grades, playing together in our amazing playground. This is not something you are used to seeing!

What have you learned from this experience?
We've learned what it means to have to adapt to an entirely new situation! We’ve discovered how other schools organised themselves for online learning, we’ve met new staff, new children and their parents. We’ve created very strong bonds with not only the students here, but also with their remote teachers. This has been extremely rewarding!

Do you have any words of advice for the Ecolint community at large, as we are nearing the end of confinement?  
Compassion, communication and flexibility are essential if we want to adapt to the future and what it holds for us.

The entire Ecolint Community is grateful to Valerie, Sharon, and all their colleagues who are working relentlessly and creatively to meet the needs of some of our most hardworking families. Un grand merci!!

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