Summer 4-H Program Finishing at Farmway Village near Caldwell, Previews Programs in Bonners Ferry, Potlatch

Monday, August 9 2010

Written by Bill Loftus

CALDWELL, Idaho –The first summer of a University of Idaho 4-H program that is helping Farmway Village children learn new skills wraps up this week.

The Farmway Village program and two others in Potlatch and Bonners Ferry will resume next month as after school offerings in three Idaho communities. The efforts are funded by a five-year $660,000 USDA grant through the Children, Youth and Families at Risk Program.

The University of Idaho secured the grant to help Idaho schoolchildren increase their knowledge of science and technology, healthy living, arts and culture while developing life skills, said Maureen Toomey, University of Idaho Extension associate for 4-H at Caldwell, who led the application effort.

About 90 children participated in the Farmway Village 4-H summer program that focused on science and technology, arts and crafts and carpentry.

Farmway Village, which was established about 5 miles from Caldwell as a seasonal labor camp, became the program's first focus because the university already had ties there and because children there had no other organized activities available.

Liliana Vega, Ada County-based University of Idaho Extension educator for 4-H, has worked for more than a year with Farmway Village families. She led the summer program with help from Marisol Aguilar, an AmeriCorps Vista volunteer.

It helped, Toomey said, that Vega and Aguilar are bilingual in English and Spanish since nearly all of the Farmway Village residents are Latino.

The Caldwell School District and Caldwell Housing Authority are active partners in the program. Nampa’s Grace Episcopal Church was critical in helping offer a summer Latino Cultural Art program this summer.

“What is wonderful about this program is the number of organizations that have come together for this project,” Vega said. Volunteers participated from the University of Idaho, College of Idaho, Boise State University, Caldwell's Vallivue High School, and Nampa's Grace Episcopal Church.

"Our work complements the Caldwell School District's efforts at Farmway Village," Toomey said.
The program's success this summer also depended on outreach over the past year to the Farmway Village families.

"We had to do some door to door knocking, and we had an open house," Vega said. "And the Caldwell School District gave us its backing, saying that this would be a good program, and that we were a reliable program."

"A lot of it had to do with relationship building," Vega added. "With these communities, relationship building means a lot. Some of the parents have been able to meet us, which I think helps. And some of it has been youth telling other youth about the program."

Most Farmway Village families still rely on seasonal jobs which means parents are away from home most of the day, entrusting older children with the care of younger siblings.

Farmway Village's relative isolation from Caldwell and traditional summer programs made it a priority for the 4-H program, Toomey said. "I like that it's quiet out there," Toomey said, "but for giving kids the opportunity for involvement in positive activities, it's really limited."

After school programs offered by University of Idaho Extension and 4-H through the grant will start up next month in Potlatch in Latah County and Bonners Ferry in Boundary County.