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Safety Village breaks ground on largest expansion to date

From left to right, Whitby Mayor Don Mitchell; Lennis Trotter, chair of the board for the Kids’ Safety Village; Regional chair Roger Anderson, Lisa Miller, the superintendent of education for the Durham District School Board, Police Chief Paul Martin; Terry Von Zuben, a fire prevention officer with the Town of Whitby, MPP Lorne Coe and MPP Jennifer French were among the many people on hand for the ceremonial groundbreaking of the expansion at the Kids’ Safety Village. (Photo by Joel Wittnebel)

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

When it comes to teaching kids the basics of safety, there is one space in Durham that comes to mind. Now, the Kids’ Safety Village of Durham Region is getting an upgrade, and in a big way.

Construction is underway on the newest addition to the Village, which, once completed, will house a set of brand new classrooms dedicated to teaching kids the basics of fire safety.

“Whether it’s fire safety in terms of what to do when the smoke alarm activates, what to do if your clothes catch fire, how to escape your home should a fire occur, all of those things will be taught to them, but in several different ways,” says Terry Von Zuben, a fire prevention officer for the Town of Whitby.

The expansion and subsequent additional programming will complement the Village’s ongoing programs in road and bike safety, as well as teaching kids how to deal with strangers, lessons all taught by the Durham Regional Police.

The fire safety element will be a welcome addition, Von Zuben says.

“Having a dedicated classroom gives us an opportunity to bring children here and create an environment that is both educational and experiential that the children will come into the classroom and learn things in ways they wouldn’t be able to from us just bringing our facility to their schools,” he says.

Along with the new building, the Safety Village will see accessibility upgrades to many of the existing buildings to provide better wheelchair access, as well as upgrades to the sidewalks and roads throughout the miniature village.

“It’s a whole other area of the village, so we’re teaching fire safety as well as the police program,” says Lennis Trotter, chair of the board of directors for the Kids’ Safety Village. “By bringing the fire (services) in, it’ll give a more full range of services.”

However, the upgrades won’t come cheap. To date, the board, responsible for raising the much-needed capital funds to keep the village operational, has managed to gather more than $480,000 to put toward the upgrades and new building. With that said, another $100,000 is still needed to see the project through to completion.

Since the Village opened in 1995, through a joint partnership of the Oshawa-Parkwood Rotary Club and the Optimist Club of Ajax, more than 200,000 children have been taught valuable lessons through the Village’s programs.

Looking forward, Trotter hopes through negotiations with the region’s school boards, that the Safety Village can become an official part of the curriculum.

“That’ll be the next step,” he says. “If it comes under curriculum, then all the students will come. Right now, it’s up to the teacher to reserve the time and reserve the class and some teachers come and some teachers don’t.”

To learn more about the village and how to donate, visit http://www.durhamsafetyvillage.com