Unplug and Play Week

Screens are a part of family life and they play many roles in our technology-based society. It is important for parents to be aware of screen time and strive for a healthy balance with other activities.

Here are a few strategies to reduce the screen time battles in your home:


1.  No screens before school.

Their brains are fresh and ready to play and learn and they are usually in a good mood, so don’t waste that time on screens.

2.  No screens until chores are done.

Provide age-appropriate chores around the house and then screen time can come once those are done.

3.  No screens one hour before bedtime.

Screens are stimulating, so bedtime routines and falling asleep are easier if children have at least an hour to de-stimulate with a bath, quiet play, snack, and a story.

4.  No screens during meals.

Use meal times as family time together without distractions, to talk about your day, or the world, or fun things that are coming up on the weekend.

5.  No screens in the vehicle.

There is so much to see as the world goes by the window. Kids that have the opportunity to take in their surroundings are, among other things, good navigators.


Be consistent yet flexible with the screen rules in your home and focus on enjoying the time with a variety of other activities.

For activity ideas, check out the Interior Savings Unplug and Play Week coming January 25-31st - a week devoted to awareness and activities promoting balancing technology use with time with family, creative pursuits, recreation, and connection to nature. United Way - Success by 6 along with CATCH and the Partners for Literacy are coordinating a week of fun family activities throughout the Central Okanagan.

From Frosty Fun at Mission Creek Regional Park to Pancakes and Pajamas, Games Night, Puppet Shows, a speaker on Internet and Social Media Safety, and a documentary inspiring us to reconnect with nature - It is going to be great week with ways for everyone to get involved.

For a full schedule of events go to www.okanagan4kids.com/unplug-play and join the Facebook Event for updates – Interior Savings Unplug and Play Week.


Basics for babies

For many families, welcoming a new baby brings joy as well as additional financial obligations. Unfortunately, for some families the basic items needed by their infant are simply beyond reach. Essentials for Life, a program run by the Karis Support Society and funded by United Way, ensures that these babies have diapers, wipes, formula, rice cereal and other necessities to ensure their well-being.

“Many of our clients have next to nothing,” says Deana, the Karis Support Society team leader who coordinates the program. “They may be out of work or just have low income. They are so thankful to have this support when it’s their last resort and they don’t know where to turn for help. We know that they are very grateful.”

Donations to the United Way campaign help the Karis Support Society to purchase the baby supplies, as well as supporting more than 40 other agencies and programs in the Central and South Okanagan. People needing baby items are referred by a variety of places, including other social service agencies, child protection and health services. A referral form is available from the Karis Support Society.

Leigh James and Eileen Smith are Public Health Nurses at the Rutland Health Centre, which serves many needs of babies and young children. They offer services ranging from immunizations, developmental screening, parenting programs, breastfeeding and many others. They refer many of the families who receive help from Essentials for Life.

Essentials for Life is a huge support to many of our families,” says Smith. “We work hard to develop relationships with families, and being able to make this kind of assistance accessible for them is so good. We want to be a safe place for folks to share what is happening with them and their children. It’s not just about immunizing – we are helping to build healthy attachments, prevent future issues and work with families so they have positive outcomes.”

James agrees. “People we see may be worried or anxious for a variety of reasons related to their family situation and parenting. They may feel like they are going to be judged but we are able to reassure them and connect them with the appropriate supports.”

“For many of our citizens, it’s about not knowing where to turn when they need help,” says Shelley Gilmore, Executive Director of United Way.” United Way works to connect the dots and ensure that services in our community are front and centre for everyone to find. Ensuring we support the programs and services that inspire our community to build a stronger and healthier existence for everyone is our mandate.”

United Way works with partner agencies like the Karis Support Society, investing in three focus areas: building strong communities, helping kids be all they can be, and moving people from poverty to possibility. To join the movement, visit www.unitedwaycso.com


Success By 6

Louise Osmond knows that strong relationships are the foundation to working effectively with children and families.

At 24 years old, with a 3-year old toddler and a newborn baby, Louise Osmond became a single parent. With the support of many community agencies and programs she was able to complete her four year Child and Youth Care degree at the University of Victoria and follow her dreams of working with children, youth and families.

Today, in her role as the Central Okanagan Universal Screening Initiative (COUSI) Coordinator, she guides families through the use of the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, a tool that helps to identify whether a child is developmentally on track. More than that, she provides reassurance, validation and resources for parents. “So often parents wonder if everything is okay; if what my baby or toddler or preschooler is doing is normal.” Louise sees the ASQ screening as an opportunity for parents to celebrate their child; the qualities, characteristics that make them unique. “It’s a way of filling your toolkit so you can be there for your child. It is a strength; a gift to your child.”

Success By 6 is a United Way initiative focused on making the Central Okanagan the best place possible to raise a child. Success by 6, along with the Central Okanagan Foundation, provided funding toward the COUSI Coordinator position at the Kelowna Child Care Society. The investment was part of a comprehensive strategy to help children succeed for life by focusing on the development of social and emotional skills.

"Ensuring that our community is a strong and healthy one in the future starts with our communities children," explains Shelley Gilmore, Executive Director of the United Way CSO. "Our United Way is committed to investing in children's programming that supports the family unit and fosters both individual and family success. Success By 6 is just one program that we are part of that is working to make an impact."

Because Louise was a young parent she can relate to the challenges people face. She recalls, “you do face a lot of judgement. I know what it was like to have eyes on me.”

Many families in our region don’t have an informal family network around them. They have moved here from other areas of the province or country and can feel isolated. Louise feels that programs and initiatives are working to try to fill the void in the support system.

“I want people to feel that I have seen them and heard them.” As she watches the families and babies she works with grow and develop she sees, “they are highly skilled and able to nurture. Parents are so capable. They take their role as a parent very seriously.”

Louise admits that sometimes developmental concerns arise. Yet, the sooner parents and care providers catch a delay, the sooner they can make a difference. The importance of the first six years should not be underestimated; it sets the foundation for all the health, growth, learning, and life satisfaction that follows. Providing early identification of potential differences is crucial.

United Way works with partner agencies like the Kelowna Child Care Society, investing in three focus areas: building strong communities, helping kids be all they can be, and moving people from poverty to possibility. To join the movement, visit www.unitedwaycso.com


This article was submitted by Amanda Turner, Success By 6 Coordinator for United Way in the Central Okanagan.


Support for seniors

Asking for help is difficult for most people. It can be especially daunting if a senior has always been independent, and then suddenly needs more support because of an illness, injury or other sudden life change.

For many years, United Way has helped ensure that assistance is available to seniors and families who do reach out for support, by making an annual investment in the Seniors Outreach and Resource Centre as well as several other seniors organizations in the Okanagan Valley. Donations to the United Way campaign are critical to agencies like Seniors Outreach, who depend on core funding to keep their doors open.

Community volunteers are also essential, because the centre has only three paid employees responding to thousands of inquiries each year. Volunteer support allows the funding to be leveraged so that more seniors can be helped, which is a tremendous value to the overall well-being of the community. The greatest needs are around handy-person tasks, social transportation and friendly visiting.

Kathryn McLean, a social worker who has been supporting seniors through the centre since 2011, says, “For some people, it takes a lot for them to be able to pick up the phone and call for help. Sometimes they are perplexed about why they don’t qualify for particular services in the community. We try to match the volunteer to what the senior is wanting and needing. It feels good when we are able to say yes.”

McLean says a favourite part of her role is helping people understand their options. “When somebody goes away knowing what is available to them and feeling empowered to take the next step, I know I accomplished what I set out to do. I like to make things clear in a way that the person can understand. That’s rewarding.”

She says that a lot of people don’t really understand how hard life can be for seniors, especially if they are lacking social and family support, have limited financial resources, and are restricted by health issues and disabilities.

Mahat is a volunteer with Seniors Outreach who hosts the weekly Coffee Break get-togethers that are held at the Apple Valley building at 2055 Benvoulin (across from Orchard Park Mall). Seniors Outreach has their offices in the main floor of the seniors apartment building.

A semi-retired bus driver, Mahat finds hosting the social gatherings very rewarding, even baking treats to share with the group. Seniors Outreach is his first experience with volunteering, and he enjoys the weekly routine of making coffee, setting out everything the group needs, and helping people to feel welcome and comfortable. He says both men and women attend the meetings.

“I see challenges they are facing. Sometimes it’s loneliness. One fellow’s wife passed away and then his son also passed away, and he has no brothers or sisters," he says. “People come to the group and they talk about their own lives, what they did during the week, and sometimes they help each other with different things too.”

Mahat feels that Seniors Outreach does an excellent job of helping seniors through their outreach services, programs and volunteer services.

United Way works with partner agencies like Seniors Outreach Services Society, investing in three focus areas: building strong communities, helping kids be all they can be, and moving people from poverty to possibility. To join the movement, visit www.unitedwaycso.com


Submitted by Avril Paice, Director of Community Investment for United Way of the Central and South Okanagan Similkameen

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About the Author

The mission of United Way is to improve lives and build community by engaging individuals and mobilizing collective action.

We call this our Community Impact Mission. Community impact is about achieving meaningful, long-term improvements to the quality of life in Canadian communities, by addressing not just the symptoms of problems but also getting at the root causes. It’s about making fundamental changes to community conditions.

United Way is achieving this mission by moving people from poverty to possibility, promoting healthy people and strong communities, and supporting all that kids can be.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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