When you live in a small town, community is everything.
Some parents in Oyen, Alberta, were struggling to find childcare. One day they decided it was time to take matters into their own hands.
Jaime Bowles is one of the parents who recognized there was a gap in local childcare services.
Created Out of Necessity
“Oyen has never actually had a daycare other than small, home daycares. But there wasn’t a type of daycare where families could use government subsidies,” she says “So a ton of parents got together to start a daycare because there are lots of moms—myself included—who wanted to go back to work but couldn’t because the cost of daycare was so substantial they’d end up paying more money for the service than they’d make at their job,” she says.
The Oyen Daycare opened in 2021.
“We held tons of fundraisers our first year to help get things going, especially with kids starting daycare with us. I’m on the Board of Executives as the treasurer, so basically I’m there if we need to do any fundraisers. We also have an executive director who lets us know how things are going day-to-day and how we’re doing financially,” Jaime explains.
The number of kids registered at the daycare has grown substantially since it opened nearly two years ago.
“We have close to 30 kids registered, but not all of them are there full-time. When we started, we only had spots for about six kids per day and we ended up having to extend that shortly after. So we put an application into the government to allow us to care for more kids under the age of two or three so we could meet the need,” she says.
Just Getting Started
Even in a small community, it takes a lot of work to get something like a daycare started.
“It’s really hard in a small town to get something like this started. In the beginning, it was just a bunch of parents who came together and then the whole town realized there was a need for a daycare, too,” she says.
They even caught the attention of the local government.
“We had a lot of help from Oyen’s past chief administrative officer and they asked around to see who would want to be president and vice president of our society. They ended up asking me if I wanted to be treasurer and to help start the daycare,” Jaime explains.
After that, it wasn’t hard getting more people on board.
“Luckily we’re in a small community where people know that to get things done, you have to step up and start societies. People here are very willing and small communities are tight-knit so it’s easy to pull everyone together,” she says.
The group applied for a business name and accreditations and even reached out to neighbouring communities for advice.
“We went to other communities to see what they did because when you do something in one small town, it affects the others nearby as well. We’re used to helping each other out,” she says.
Making it Official
“After all that, our Society was formed. From there, the Society opened the daycare,” Jaime says.
The Oyen Daycare is important for the town because it allows parents to access government subsidies for childcare.
“Now we’re able to offer subsidies for parents who can’t afford daycare. We’ve since seen a lot of parents who are able to go back to work because they have affordable daycare for their kids,” she says.
Growing Into the Future
The Oyen Daycare is located in a room at the local school, but their recent growth in registrations is sparking thoughts about the future.
“We’re outgrowing our current space. We’re looking into finding a permanent location within the next few years,” she says.
There are a few things they’ll have to consider, particularly around costs and what the building looks like.
“Our goal is to have a baby and toddler room, as well as a summer camp room. We need to have rooms for different age groups,” she says.
To help fund some of the costs, Oyen Daycare is looking to do more local fundraisers like hosting dinners. Last August, volunteers from the Oyen Daycare were part of the Lanfine Wind celebration. The team prepared a meal and helped decorate the venue.
The Oyen Day Care is also preparing to fill another need in the community: a summer camp. Jaime says they held one last year.
“It was really needed in the town because with school out, a lot of parents don’t have childcare. Daycare for multiple kids adds up and a lot of regular daycares aren’t accepting older kids,” she says.
The plan is to run the summer camp again this year with activities such as touring the fire hall, swimming at the local pool, and visiting the museum.
Learn more about Oyen Daycare by visiting their website HERE.