Schoolkids bond with babies in empathy program

A program called Roots of Empathy that connects school children with babies is celebrating its 15th anniversary on P.E.I.

The goal is to help kids develop emotionally and grow into responsible and caring adults.

Melissa Myron has been bringing her baby Eliza to this classroom once a month since she was just a couple months old.

"It's a pretty neat program and I'm really happy that we did it," said Myron.

The sessions are short and guided by Roma Downe-MacQuarrie, a nurse who has been part of the program for 15 years.

"Very exciting and very meaningful. I think it's changed me as a person," said Downe-MacQuarrie.

Nine schools in the province are participating in the program.

Teacher Joanne Jay was one of the first on the Island to take part with her daughter Kerry in 2002.

"When baby Kerry came to the classroom, everyone mingled, everyone was excited to see the baby. It was a bit of a team-building experience for the kids," said Jay.

'It's very special'

Kerry doesn't remember being part of it, but believes it's great way to help develop empathy and compassion in children.

"This way they can interact with them and also have fun and they don't have to really look after the kids."

For some students, it's their first exposure to a baby.

"I am very happy about it. It's really special, it doesn't happen to every single person," said Andy White.

"It's been actually really entertaining seeing her hair grow, seeing how she communicates. She doesn't cry as much anymore. She usually points at something or picks it up. It's been pretty cool."

Sona Sabu says, "It's really sweet, I like her coming here because we have really fun with her."

The program is funded by Health PEI and relies on volunteers.

"The whole mission is to make a caring society one classroom at a time, one child at a time. The more classrooms, the more schools we have, the more that's going to happen," said Downe-MacQuarrie

Organizers say they'd love to reach more children and are looking more financial support.