Puggles Mobile Children’s Services Van brings early childhood education and care to six regional and remote areas of the extended Tumbarumba region. A highly valued community service, the mobile preschool was the beneficiary of a 2018 grant from the Hyne Community Trust, which allowed their storage shed in Tumbarumba to be completely refurbished. The shed serves as the central home for the service, safe storage of toys, resources and cleaning of equipment.

Several parents gave positive feedback on the service, which helps their children learn new skills in preparation for school.

Cora Harding, mother to Marlee (5) and Hazel (2) said the service has totally transformed her older daughter who is preparing to transition to school in 2020. From a shy and reserved girl, Marlee has turned into a totally different child who loves her time with the educators and has no separation anxiety.

Cora says the mums use this opportunity to have some time out once a week.

Mel Doughty is another local mother with four children, two of whom are already in school. Nicholas is five years old and preparing to transition to school next year. Having this service within minutes of her home in Rosewood while nursing a younger child is very convenient for Mel while it also ensures Nicholas doesn’t have to miss out on school readiness activities.

The Puggles team visits Rosewood once a week and Nicholas gets to interact with other children who aren’t his siblings, even learning different responsibilities and sharing toys with children his own age, for example. Mel believes the Puggles experience will help him get ready for regular school.

Over the course of a week, the Puggles Mobile Children’s Services Van visits Rosewood, Ladysmith, Tarcutta, Tooma, Adjungbilly and Brungle, providing preschool care for around 85 children where no other similar service exists.

Depending on Government subsidy and concession entitlements, the service costs users between $7 and $27.50 per session and is open to ages six months to six years subject to availability.

The educators coordinate a range of different learning environments and activities, with the materials loaded onto the truck at their central shed, unloaded at each location and packed back up again at the end before being cleaned once a fortnight.

Team Leader Jasmine Allen said the service is not just about childcare – it also provides additional development opportunities.

“We have play based learning with a focus on school readiness for the 3 – 5 year olds. We also take them to visit schools so the school environment becomes familiar as part of school transition implementation in our program.

“For those living in rural and remote areas, children wouldn’t otherwise have access to this and suddenly going from being at home every day to starting 5 days of school per week is not ideal for most children who may find themselves behind in their learning and social skills.

“Day to day, it is also our role to provide a safe and secure place away from home. The children know they can come to us if they need reassurance, building their resilience and security, knowing their parents are coming back to collect them. It also assists parents deal with their separation too.

“The Hyne Community Trust grant has enabled us to renovate our shed. We need somewhere to base and this is vital to the running of the service. Without the shed, we cannot operate and we are thankful for this support,” Allen said.

The 2019 round of Hyne Community Trust Grants opens for applications on 1 June.