The Power of Building Strong Relationships

COVID-19 has kept us physically distanced from children and families since mid-March, which has led to virtual or remote connections since then.  A cornerstone and foundational value of our program is relationships, and we were determined to maintain that, even with the new challenges of being distanced.  We had so many questions and concerns with all the uncertainty.  Among those was this: Could we maintain the strong relationships we value so deeply?  And then the stories came flooding in from our community – teachers, home visitors, families, and more were sharing their experiences of this new adjustment.  It became very clear; we may be physically apart, but we are still together.

I’m sure by now, 5 months into the pandemic, we are all well aware of the challenges that can come with virtual learning.  But relationships are still ever present and strong.  They are reaching far beyond the confines of a classroom or center, as you can see here in the experiences of Irina, an Infant Care Teacher, Malachi (Mali) a student in her classroom, and Shane, Malachi’s father.

Irina’s Experience:

Working for Head Start taught me how to be flexible in my teaching especially working with Mali. He is such a sweet and special boy. I am so lucky to be a part of his life and seeing his improvements makes my heart overflow with joy. Working from home just proved to me that teaching is something that I love doing! I’m missing my group of children so much and when I’m connecting with them via Zoom they are making me so proud of their achievements in language, physical, and emotional abilities.

Shane’s Experience:

I just want to thank KidZCommunity for all the support that they have given to my family, especially during these unsettled and stressful times. I am a single father of 6 children, the youngest being little Malachi. Malachi started in the Early Head Start program over the winter. Malachi has some special needs and some medical problems. It was a difficult decision to put him into this program. All my fears where quickly alleviated as I saw the concern and care that Ramey and the rest of the staff had for Malachi and for myself.  He has greatly benefited developmentally over the past months of attending the program. As a new father of a down syndrome baby, not knowing what the future would bring, I am eternally grateful for the love support that we receive from these beautiful people. From Malachi’s teacher Irina caring for him as one of her own and the poetic pictures and comments that she puts on ChildFolio so that I don’t miss out on the milestones he reaches while I’m not with him, to the social worker Rebecca, helping to stir me up and plot on future goals, researching, calling and meeting with me as I discovered possibilities of College and a new career that will fit my family. Ramey and the staff have gone above and beyond, meeting with Malachi’s therapists and special ed teachers, coordinating and setting up the classroom to fit his needs and therapy suggestions. As you could imagine, this situation has come with financial hardship, I was brought to tears as I came to pick Malachi up just before Christmas break, to have been given gifts for all of my children. Words can’t explain.
Since this Coronavirus has turned our world upside down and the program was closed, the staff have still been supportive. I have received many emails and phone calls to check in on us as well as to offer different services.  This morning Malachi’s teacher, Irina, called him on Zoom just to see him and say hi. Malachi was so happy to see her. We have many Zoom meetings these days, with all of his therapists and doctor appointments, but I have not seen him act like this, completely loving on the tablet and his teacher that he hasn’t seen in too long. Malachi does not have a mother present in his life, I cannot tell you what it has meant to him and myself, to have these wonderful women bond with him and to give him that extra love that I am unable to.   Thank you KidZCommunity!!!

-Shane Garrett