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Happy birthday to pandemic-born nursery

Dream achieved: Omir Pitcher, left, and other students from Roots & Wings Nursery in St George, Taja Fox, Abriella De Sa Melville and Shayla Moncrieff, are pictured together with nursery school owner Emily Clifford (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

When the Roots & Wings Nursery celebrated one year in business earlier this month, the milestone felt particularly poignant to owner Emily Clifford.

“A year ago, this day did not seem achievable, but the fact that I have survived the first year, I am beyond words,” Ms Clifford said. “When I opened with two babies, it felt like a real gamble.”

Initially, she was unsure if the demand would be there for her services, or whether she would get enough students to make the business financially viable.

“But once I started advertising through word of mouth, it all fell into place for me,” she said.

Since then, she has grown from just two little ones to ten. And her student body is growing.

“I have just hired a new teacher, so next month we will take on five more students,” she said. “So far, I have 14 students enrolled.”

She believes she is the only privately run nursery in the town, and the only one that takes children under the age of three.

“I believe there is a government funded nursery in St George that takes children three and older,” she said. “I take students one to four.”

Ms Clifford saw a particular need for childcare in the old town for very young children.

The majority of her students live in St George’s or St David’s, or work nearby.

Roots & Wings is located at the Ebenezer Methodist Church on York Street. She was familiar with the nursery space because her nieces attended a nursery there when they were little.

“I loved the space, but when their nursery closed down, I just put it on the back burner,” she said. “During Covid-19, the stars aligned, the space became vacant, and everything happened to work in my favour.”

Opening during a pandemic is not something she would like to do again.

“The Health Department was very supportive and accommodating, but it was very challenging, getting all the materials to the island, trying to meet all of the requirements and just trying to open in a timely fashion,” she said.

Ms Clifford has been particularly fortunate with her staff.

“They are passionate and phenomenal,” she said. “I know other nurseries have had a really hard time finding reliable staff. That really puts a damper on being able to offer childcare when you cannot have staff.”

Her secret is shopping around.

“Before I hire staff, I will have them come in and do a couple of days at the nursery,” she said. “I watch how the students interact with them. I chose the ones who my students gravitated towards and it felt natural.”

Before opening Roots and Wings she worked for the Bermuda High School for Girls’ after school programme.

“I was there when they opened their early years programme foundation year (for four-year-olds), and I just loved that age group,” she said. “They are a lot of work, but they are also very rewarding. This week I was looking back on where we were when we started. A couple of our students were not even walking when we started, and now they are walking and running around. To be able to witness that first hand has just been amazing to me.”

But she laughingly admitted that running things was much easier when she just had two students.

Roots and Wings celebrated its first birthday with a school outing to the Aquarium. Students started with face painting, and then saw a mermaid show in the North Rock tank. They also did an Easter egg hunt.

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Published April 24, 2023 at 7:29 am (Updated April 24, 2023 at 7:29 am)

Happy birthday to pandemic-born nursery

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