The Ark

The Ark has been running for many years as an outreach from Westbrook Church, but this Easter we moved into St Wilfrid’s.  We felt that we should do this so that the pre-school that meets in Westbrook Hall can offer the full childcare that the government is funding from September.

But that’s the boring bit.  What do we actually do?

It’s just before 9:00am on a Wednesday morning.  The flags are out in front of church.  The team are getting out all the toys.  There’s a kitchen, play houses, cars, a road mat, jigsaws, ride on cars, bouncy rabbits, a ball pool, building bricks, play dough, a craft table…  We put out a few chairs, so the mums can chat, because that’s what we’re here for.  It’s not just a place to take the kids to get them out of the house. We want to connect these lovely people and help them build lasting friendships.  I know of mums who met at the Ark 10 years ago and are still firm friends.

We make sure we find time to pray for the morning ahead of us – for safety, fun and friendships.

At half past, our guests start to arrive – mums, dads, grandparents are all welcome.  Some of the children are a bit shy as they come through the door, but in a matter of minutes, they are running around like mad things.  There’s someone greeting them as they arrive, someone in the kitchen making hot drinks (you’d be amazed how many mums say they haven’t had chance for a hot drink, or never get to finish one).  Jane is doing a craft activity, because mums don’t always like doing messy stuff at home.  The rest of the team are chatting to adults or playing with children.

Just before 11:00am we tidy up, so that the children can have a snack, and then we sing with them – all the old nursery rhymes.  We always sing a thank you song for our food before we eat.  Then we pack everything away.

Photo: Before the children arrive!

It’s busy, but rewarding, especially when a little one brings you a plastic banana to “eat”, or plays ball with you because they know they can trust you and that you care.  Sometimes we get opportunities to pray for the families too.

Please come and talk to one of the team (Jo Snares, Elaine Davenport, Jenny Dickin, Jane Hill, Clive and Sue Williams), if you think you’d like to join us, even if it’s only occasionally.

Photo: Our safe baby corner

Little Fishes Under Fives

(Which would have been Small Corner if anyone else had remembered the Sunday school song!)

Almost exactly two years ago on 1st May at 8.30am, full of trepidation, I muttered to Robin that no-one would come – we haven’t advertised – is it really what people need or just what we think they want?

Yay! Of course, I should have had more faith.

As we waited with Denise, Racquel and Jan, sudden laughter and footsteps on the stairs brought six children and their carers closely followed by six more with mums and grans!

Applying to the Diocese for a grant to start a new venture had been a steep learning curve during the interregnum, especially when my computer gave up the ghost in the middle of application sending. Notwithstanding, eventually we were awarded £1,000 and it was huge fun choosing a kitchen and dolls houses with multi sized teddies and doll families for which Louise made beautiful cot bedding. We needed storage boxes, bean bags for the baby corner and spill proof cups for the grownups. Healthy snacking would be implemented; Robin bought a new guitar for music time and we got a bit carried away choosing story books.

We’re indebted to Lesley for her advice as a qualified child minder and, after two years, we’re still pretty much using our original lay out.

Numbers have ebbed and flowed between 20 and 45, dependant on ‘going up to pre – school’ time and we’ve loved watching ‘bumps’ grow to healthy, lively two year olds. A few of our original tinies are still with us, now three or four years old – and how quickly they’ve grown!

Our team members are treasured. Originally each one agreed to ‘go on a rota’ but manage to come nearly every week, sharing time and occasionally problems with families, listening to news, storytelling and making coffee.

It’s quite tiring but Samsie comes to wash up and tidy with us – a very welcome friend at the end of the morning.

Why not pop up and visit some time?

For more information please visit our page

The Ark & Little Fishes by Jo Snares & Sonia Passingham