Erica's story of advocacy for care workers

Erica Saunders is an Early Childhood Educator (ECE), ICL’s Training Manager, and an integral member of our team. Read Erica’s story here to learn more about her advocacy for care workers fighting for decent conditions:

I started out as an Early Childhood Educator (ECE) and I thought that was it. I envisioned myself in my own classroom with vibrant and beautiful paints, droves of natural loose parts, and ultimately, a place to foster my love of facilitating learning opportunities for children. My reality was very different though. Not only was I cleaning toilets while attempting to supervise children through my peripheral vision, I was often working above legal ratio guidelines. My college training had not prepared me for this— I was taught about the wonderment of childhoods, and showed how to build curriculum based upon the children in one’s classroom. My idea of what I would actually be doing was in stark contrast to where I was

I left that child care after only four months and proceeded to work for another centre that was, sadly, all too similar. I then reached out to a past college instructor who was the Executive Director of a not-for-profit centre and finally witnessed firsthand what quality child care looked like.

"I see people working for positive change in real-time, and I see the incredible power that this holds."

After these experiences though, I was forever changed. I could no longer sit silently knowing all that I did about how both children and ECEs were treated in Ontario’s patchwork child care system. So, I embarked on my degree in Early Childhood Studies and I began working for the school board, where I quickly learned that advancement opportunities for ECEs simply did not exist in the way that they did for teachers. 

I was a part of the successful petition to halt provincial cuts to child care in 2019 at the OCBCC. I will not soon forget standing at the bottom of an escalator, clutching onto the petition paperwork, projecting my voice towards the people of downtown Toronto. This memory lives within me and reminds me of all the good that people are capable of. Most of the folks who signed my petition were young, child free professionals off to work, yet they saw the value in child care. They saw value outside of their own experience. This changed me.

After completing my Master’s of Early Childhood Studies, my move to work with the Institute for Change Leaders was the perfect next step. During my Master’s, I began to find myself concerned with care workers, which certainly includes ECEs but is, perhaps, less secular than my prior focus. At the Institute, I feel the power of other’s goodness daily. I see people working for positive change in real-time, and I see the incredible power that this holds.

Particularly in times of isolation, like what the COVID-19 pandemic has thrust upon us, it can be easy to overlook the inner workings of change makers. This is not always intentional; we cannot see what we do not know! So, I find myself sitting here with immense gratitude to be able to see what the change makers all around me are working towards. I also get to share what I am working towards in the process. The Institute has had a monumental impact on my journey; I hope to express my gratitude by supporting their noble mission each and every day.

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