'Rainbow after the storm': Fiona-damaged daycare on P.E.I. reopens bigger and better
'There's always a silver lining, and lots of people have said "Thank God for Fiona"'
Jamie-Lynn Mosher never imagined she'd have a nice thing to say about Fiona — certainly not after the post-tropical storm severely damaged the child-care centre she's run for years in a small rural eastern P.E.I. community.
"There was such devastation," said Mosher, director of Rainbow Beginnings Early Years Centre in St. Teresa. "My heart hurts just thinking about."
But a little over a year later, with the centre's staff and most of the 80 children finally moved into a newly renovated space, she's developed a soft spot for the storm.
"Through all things, there's always a silver lining. And lots of people have said, 'Thank God for Fiona,'" she said.
"Without Fiona, we would never have this upstairs space. We would not have been able to partner with [funders] to create such a masterpiece for the community, and for the children."
An imperfect solution
But the road to the reopening did have its bumps.
In the days after Fiona hit in September 2022, Mosher and her staff scrambled to find a new temporary space in the area for the children. There wasn't one building big enough, so they had to settle for three smaller spaces and divide the kids up.
Two of the new locations were an old bank and a church in Morell, a 15-minute drive north of St. Teresa. The spaces weren't designed for daycare, and parents like Jessie Morrison-Grant had to do a lot of extra driving.
"For us, that meant an extra half-hour travel each way a day," said Morrison-Grant.
"We love [Rainbow Beginnings] very much, so we committed. But it was extra travel for us for sure, for us and the kids ... We just had to make plans about which parent could pick up when, and if someone needed to leave work early."
'We just kept hitting roadblocks'
For staff and parents, there was also the fear they'd never return to the damaged building in St. Teresa.
The former church hall was owned by St. Cuthbert's Parish, which leased it to Mosher. The director said there was limited insurance money to pay for the extensive repairs needed.
As a religious group, the parish wasn't eligible for most government-funded programs.
The kids are excited to get back to a space they know and love. So everyone's really happy with it.— Jessie Morrison-Grant
"We just kept hitting roadblocks along the way time after time after time, and the parish council was working so hard to try to figure this all out for us," said Mosher.
"Some days looked really bleak. It really didn't look like this place was going to survive, and we were just one big windstorm away from, 'Will the whole thing go?'"
'A community pain'
Enter Active Communities Development Inc., a not-for-profit group focused on helping community projects in eastern P.E.I.
After hearing about the struggles of Rainbow Beginnings, the group decided to step in. It bought the building and came up with the money needed to get the daycare up and running again.
"We had really seen a community in pain as a result of Fiona, so it felt good just to help them," said Active Communities executive director Martina MacDonald.
With the help of about $500,000 in government funding, Active Communities not only restored the building but expanded it by adding an extra level.
"We thought to ourselves, 'Well, if we're ever going to take this opportunity to make this a larger centre so we can solve some of the child-care issues in the region, now's the time,'" said MacDonald.
For now, it's given children much more room to run around and play during the day.
Eventually, after anticipated changes to child-care capacity regulations in the province, Mosher hopes she'll be able to add more spaces and shorten her lengthy waitlist.
"The hardest part about that, of course, will be finding the quality staff. Recruitment and retention is always tricky, especially in rural communities. But the children are there," she said.
The newly renovated building will also be used for community activities in the evenings and on weekends.
For Morrison-Grant, those many months of driving to Morrell have proven worth it.
"It's amazing. I was speechless when I walked in. It's so open and driven toward movement and inclusion," she said. "And the kids are excited to get back to a space they know and love. So everyone's really happy with it."
"It's the rainbow after the storm. It really has come full circle for us," added Mosher.
"When we weren't here, we were so devastated that we weren't in our small community with our family and friends. So to be back here is such a blessing."