Faced with the challenge of providing economically viable and Christian-centred childcare, Aspley Uniting Church members have used planning, persistence and prayer to make it happen. Dianne Jensen reports.
On its first day in July 2008, Aspley Uniting Church opened the Aspley Early Childhood Education Centre (AECEC) in north Brisbane with four children and six staff. Ten years on, the centre has 35 staff and serves over 200 families.
This active suburban church has a tradition of connecting with young families, with the establishment of a kindergarten in an old army hut on the site in the 1950s. Decades later, when a private childcare provider using their premises closed in 2005, the congregation stepped out in faith to renovate and extend the facilities to open their own Christian childcare centre.
Director Glenda Millard says that in spite of the trepidation of embarking on such a project and taking on new debt, church members believed in the vision.
“It was a community effort with congregation members contributing financially and by sewing sheets and curtains, donating toys and books, painting, laying turf, building gardens, making dolls’ clothes, crocheting blankets and many other things. Even today the volunteers are still involved nearly every day, helping wherever they can.
“Within seven years our debts were paid off. That vision has grown into an amazing place that is both economically viable and where families are supported in all aspects of their parenting. It has been a great success.”
With further extensions, the centre now includes a playgroup and school-age care program.
Christian faith is part and parcel of the centre, says Family Support Officer Wendy Eggert.
“Our Christian faith is embedded in everything we do, from the first greeting as you come through the door to singing songs of praise, hearing stories of God’s great love for us and supporting our children to feel secure and happy while awaiting their parents return.”
With many families under pressure from long working hours, Wendy’s role is invaluable.
“Getting to know our families so they feel comfortable in sharing their struggles allows us opportunity to support both parents and children as needed,” she says. “Helping children feel safe, secure and loved while they are in our care and being a listening ear for mum and dad and perhaps assisting with parenting direction through our Circle of Security parenting program are a couple of the ways in which we can be of support.”
The best part of her role is easy to choose, she adds.
“It’s the privilege of being welcomed into a child’s life … the tears, the laughter, the hugs, the discoveries—the many, many opportunities on a daily basis to share love and life.”