Engaging children, understanding that they have their own voices and listening to what these voices have to say has been a priority for Richmond Children First’s Helen Davidson for at least 10 years.
Her efforts were recognized by the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children who presented Davidson with the 2012 National Children’s Rights Champion Award this week.
“It’s important to look at children’s rights within a community context, not just internationally,” said Davidson, who was executive director of Richmond Family Place before joining Children First 10 years ago.
“Children have a voice and they can articulate what they’re thinking, so it’s important we listen.”
To that effect, Davidson has become a strong advocate for alleviating child poverty in Richmond and worked with numerous kids around the city to develop a Children’s Charter of Rights — items include the right to a home, the right to play and the right to explore, dream, imagine and create.
The charter has since been endorsed by organizations including the City of Richmond and Touchstone Family Association, which means these groups have committed to remembering these rights when developing programs.
“We’re still looking for more endorsements so that it stays alive within the community,” Davidson said. “It’s also about education and raising awareness.”
Richmond Family Place, another endorser, met with its board of directors last week to review their policies and see how the charter can be embedded in future decisions.
Similarly, Davidson spearheaded the Face of Child Poverty in Richmond project last year to influence policy-making and better understand the demographics.
Currently in the research phase, the project plans to talk to approximately 75 low-income parents who use programs and services in the city in an effort to understand what works and what doesn’t.
Groups of four to five parents will work with a staff facilitator from Richmond Family Place or Touchstone to share their stories and experiences. Childcare will be provided during the session and participants receive a $25-Superstore gift certificate.
Other aspects of the project include a survey, which will likely be sent out around the community next week, and two community forums in the summer.
With the survey results, Richmond Children First plans to compile an inventory of the formal and informal supports available. These can range from subsidies to informal gestures such as teachers bringing in extra food because they know certain kids go hungry.
Yet, with all the progress being made, Davidson said it’s still been difficult to get the hard-nosed statistics that could further the success of the project.
“I think because of the changes in the new Census Canada form, we might not be able to get any real numbers,” she said. “Obviously, the more data we have, the better, but we’re working with what we have now.”
Richmond Children First hopes to obtain more specific data from Human Early Learning at UBC, which tends to get different datasets from the Census by the fall.
As for her passion for children’s rights, Davidson remains unwavering.
“I’ve always supported children and families,” she said. “When researching anything about this, we need to speak to them and mean it.”
To view a video of the children talking about the charter, visit http://youtu.be/BnLMPt3Jkic.