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Kelowna IPALS Program – Developing a Child’s Skills through Confidence and Connection

Rima and her family, Syrian refugees, moved to Canada in 2016. Rima has a three-year-old daughter named Yara. She was worried about her child’s development and whether her toddler was able to obtain the help she needed in order be like other children her age.

Rima explains that she noticed Yara’s language acquisition skills appeared to be delayed and that she was not walking as early as she should. After coming to Canada, Rima started to look around for help for Yara. In addition to getting connected to a number of early childhood specialists, she was referred to a new program in Kelowna called IPALS (Immigrant Parents as Literacy Supports). The IPALS program, offered by Project Literacy Kelowna Society in partnership with a variety of other community services, played an important role for Rima and Yara to both learn strategies to build basic literacy skills at home.

After starting the Kelowna IPALS sessions, Rima noticed a marked change in her daughter. Yara was beginning to feeling more comfortable in crowded public places.  Previously, she used to constantly cry and ask to go home.  Yara started to care more about her possessions and pay more attention to her toys and games. Rima discovered that Yara loved to play with Playdough. Moreover, she displayed an interest in storybooks. For the first time, she could flip pages, look at pictures and listen to her mom’s storytelling. Rima also noticed a significant improvement in Yara’s comprehension despite the brief duration of the program. Most of all, Rima was excited when Yara started to play with other children when attending the program and at other places they visited.

Now, whenever Rima shows Yara the IPALS picture album they made together, her daughter asks her mom to go back to the program. Rima learned a lot about how to work with her daughter to acquire the basic skills to prepare her for school in the next couple of years. The best part was that she learned to do this through play. Having had an opportunity to attend this program gave Rima renewed hope that her daughter’s development would improve.  Additionally, it gave her the confidence to learn the requisite skills to help Yara at home.

The Kelowna IPALS program hosted 10 Syrian families including 15 adults and 14 children. It ran twice a week for four weeks in February and March 2017. The program was a resounding success, combining expertise from multiple local agencies to support the different stages of these participating families’ settlement in Kelowna. There is hope that additional offerings of this program will be established in the Kelowna area later this year and into 2018.

The initial IPALS program in the Kelowna area was supported by Decoda Literacy Solutions and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Partnership between Project Literacy Kelowna, Central Okanagan Public Schools, Kelowna Community Resources and Kelowna Child Care Society made its local delivery possible.