A house that listens to children
The social services organization based in a house in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, La Maison des Enfants de l’Île de Montréal, welcomes 5 to 12 year-olds. It listens to them and, above all, helps them develop their own strengths and self-confidence. A Maison that belongs to the children.
If a house existed just for kids, how would you picture it?
“It would have a gable, two storeys, a winding staircase, pets, different rooms – one for making stuff, one for cooking, one for doing our
homework, one for playing around in and another for dressing up and putting on make-up …”
And what would the grownups who welcome you there be like?
“They’d listen to the kids and keep their secrets.”
Well, this house actually exists! It was brought to life by enlightened adults who respected the answers of 400 children to the last two questions.
After 10 minutes visiting the rooms, we would love to be age eight again. There is a Costume room with lots of mirrors to put on makeup! In the Dreams room, a real live dove lives there and it’s white and it can be touched! Then there’s the Great Hall that has almost no furniture in it, where everyone can run and play and have pillow fights with Hugo, who works at La Maison. They relax in the Blue room with soothing music. They work on projects in the Discovery room. And if they want to, they can seek comfort in the Listening room and tell their secrets to an adult in total confidence.
- Childcare services after school and Saturday mornings, mostly for neighbourhood children.
- Group/class childcare that lets teachers and accompanying parents discover La Maison. Two half days a week. One class at a time.
- Listening in class, where an adult from La Maison is available to listen to a child’s confidences. To create a bond of trust between the children and the volunteer, the in-class visit is scheduled once a week.
- Children’s mail, available in 21 schools on the Island of Montreal (and there’s a waiting list). Children who want to can write to an adult at La Maison and receive a reply. An army of 150 volunteers answers 5,000 letters a year. They read the mail, trying to grasp each child’s need. They then take the time to answer each. Every letter has a drawing on it with sparkles, like a gift. When children receive their letter, they feel loved and listened to. “Each letter and every reply are reviewed by a group of experienced people. Children can write to us for several years, as needed,” explained La Maison’s director Chantal Tétrault.
La Maison des Enfants has been located on Pie IX Boulevard, south of Ontario Street, for almost 30 years. Over the years, this community organization has become a real benchmark, even in France. “A lot of ‘kids’ mail’ has been written in Europe and every year, teachers and students travel to be inspired by our mission,” said Chantal Tétreault.
The team of eight at La Maison can count on a strong network of about 300 volunteers specially trained in the program in which they are involved. They include volunteers from all professional backgrounds (such as psychologists, social workers and retired teachers). In short, the service provided by La Maison des Enfants de l’Ïle de Montréal is professional. They listen to and support the children in their moments of joy and success, but also in tougher times: when they are victim to or a witness of bullying, and through heartbreak, conflicts with friends and family, loneliness, etc.
For lack of money and resources, the organization must unfortunately turn away children and schools. It is always seeking partners and donors. The Port of Montreal is very pleased and proud to support La Maison desEnfants de l’Ïle de Montréal.
Learn more at www.lamaisondesenfants.qc.ca.