This article is from our series on inspiring women in Revelstoke that celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8.
When Jo Gawler’s daughter comes home after a day at Caribou Kids she is exhausted, dirty but “megahappy”, and that’s how it should be, Gawler says with a laugh.
She nominated the owners Rajan Chhinji and Jessica Semenec as inspiring women for their work opening the childcare centre with an outdoor focus.
“I know Lilli is in good hands and is learning important things when she is there,” Gawler said.
Chhinji and Semenec opened Caribou Kids in January 2019.
Both had previously worked at the Revelstoke Child Care Society and decided to branch out on their own when space at the Alliance Church, which had previously been licensed as a child care centre, became available.
Both moved to Revelstoke with their respective partners for a year but stayed longer, Chhinji eight years and Semenec five.
Prior to moving, Semenec worked in a more clinical setting with kids who needed extra behavioural support, but with a lack of options in the Revelstoke, she transitioned into childcare.
Chhinji’s love of working with children started in secondary school.
“My interest started back in grade 12 when, for work experience, I got to work at a boys and girls club,” she said.
After a detour into accounting, Chhinji rediscovered her interest in caring for children while working at a Montessori preschool in Vancouver.
She earned her Early Childhood Education certificate after moving to Revelstoke.
Together the two compliment each other and are having fun running their own business, said Semenec.
As a team their child care philosophy is to build relationships with each individual child and introduce them to activities based on their interests. The class spends a lot of time outside and often take public transportation to other places around town. Kids have the opportunity to play individually and with friends. They have sensory play, such as making fruit rolls with rice paper for a snack as well as assigning jobs each day (such as circle helper, snack helper, lunch helper) to build a sense of responsibility.
Aligning with the Montessori method, you won’t find much plastic in the classroom but rather real tools (used when supervised) and second hand, full-sized tea sets – real materials so that the kids are comfortable when they stumble across them outside of the classroom or as an adult.
This year they are teaching about a different country each month, even introducing common phrases in different languages to the kids and celebrating other cultural holidays.
Pre-COVID they went on visits to seniors homes and often had guests come to class, but pandemic regulations have limited such activities. Instead the kids talk to senior’s over Zoom once a week.
Creating a community and being a part of the community is important to Semenec and Chhinji.
They even lent their experience starting a daycare to the After School Society, which launched last year.
“These ladies have inspired me to create something for the community as well,” said Gawler, one of the founders of the society. “And I owe that to them.”