The University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) Day Care is turning 50, and there are plenty of reasons to celebrate.
The daycare first opened on Jan. 1, 1974 and has since transformed from a 32-space operation in the basement of Bryce Hall to a nationally recognized childcare facility and practicum site.
The centre now has spaces for 144 children and operates out of a freestanding building tucked behind the Richardson College for the Environment.
The UWSA Day Care is hosting a birthday party on Jan. 19 at the Axworthy Health & RecPlex, which executive director Ioulia Berdnikova says is a symbolic tribute to the daycare’s original location.
The former location “was right on this place in the RecPlex,” she says. “The daycare was relegated because they needed space for the RecPlex ... so there are two core sides of the story: the university need(ed) the space, but, at the same time, the daycare wanted to expand.”
The UWSA Day Care offers spaces to the children of University of Winnipeg students, faculty and staff, as well as local community members. Its philosophy emphasizes inclusion, play and parental involvement.
Guardians are encouraged to join their children for group activities, help with fundraising and participate in the daycare’s management committee.
“Parents are really (involved) in this daycare,” Berdnikova says. “They come for special events. They come, they help ... You just ask the family, and they all help.”
The daycare clients come from a mix of socioeconomic backgrounds, which she says impacts the children and their families.
To illustrate, she recounts the example of two student parents whose preschooler made friends with the child of a law professor and doctor. The parents befriended one another as well, and the relationship proved to be deeply impactful.
“Eventually, these students who didn't have a clue what to do and where to go, one of them graduated med school, and he brought the second child here,” she says. “(The) mom became a lawyer. It was interesting how we see connection through the children (helps) people make their career choices, because they have (access to) firsthand experience and knowledge.”
The birthday event will celebrate these kinds of relationships and recognize decision-makers who have advocated for the daycare.
Former UWSA executives Rorie McLeod and Peyton Veitch are both on the list of guest speakers. McLeod hired Berdnikova and helped push for the daycare to pay a living wage. Veitch was a key advocate for the centre’s 2017 expansion, which added 32 spaces.
Relationships with provincial lawmakers are especially important for the daycare, since the Province provides key funding for overall operations and staff support for disabled children.
Berdnikova says she’s built a “very close relationship” with Union Station MLA Uzoma Asagwara. Throughout the pandemic, they regularly dropped off masks and hand sanitizer for the daycare.
“I have had the honour of visiting the centre on many occasions, and the work they do is truly inspiring,” Asagwara says in an emailed statement.
“The daycare is a safe and inclusive space for everyone. They are committed to providing a supportive environment and are dedicated to creating a larger sense of community and belonging.”
The daycare’s 50th birthday party takes place Jan. 19 at the RecPlex from 3 to 6 p.m. Opening ceremonies and speeches kick off at 3:45 p.m. The event will feature a photo booth, children’s activities and a cake-cutting.
Published in Volume 78, Number 14 of The Uniter (January 18, 2024)