Two B.C. companies partner to deliver education spaces in underserved communities

A joint venture by women-led businesses is aiming to expand access to quality child care and learning environments, while also addressing critical shortages.

Photo courtesy of Natural Pod

B.C.-based NUQO Modular (NUQO) and Natural Pod are joining forces with a goal to accelerate and elevate educational infrastructure in British Columbia’s underserved communities.

Together, the two women-led businesses, which are both certified B Corps, will create sustainable child care and learning environments with an aim to enhance children’s social, cognitive, and emotional development, while also providing cost predictability for clients and building operators.

According to Brigitte Alomes, founder and CEO of Natural Pods, the vision was to create modular, holistic and sustainable childcare environments that integrate naturally with the locations they’re placed at while simultaneously providing children with beautiful and meaningful learning spaces.

Photo courtesy of Natural Pod

“These childcare centres, once built, will be more than just childcare centres, but community hubs, that can be used for parent groups, community meet ups and more,” said Alomes.

This collaboration arrives as communities, particularly those that are Indigenous and marginalized, face challenges which include child care shortages and limited classroom space. Alomes noted that in 2023, 58.8 per cent of families using child care in B.C. reported difficulty finding spaces, a number which increased from 46.5 per cent in 2019. As a result, the federal government is currently working towards cutting child care fees to an average of $10 per day by 2025-26.

On March 29, 2024, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a new Child Care Expansion Loan Program, which features $1 billion in low-cost loans and $60 million in non-repayable grants and student loan forgiveness for childhood educators. This will contribute to the federal government’s goal of creating 250,000 new child care spaces by March 2026, and this partnership will support the fast response in rural and underserved areas that require a special focus.

Photo courtesy of Natural Pod

“For rural communities with small populations like Fernie, child-care centres can double as community spaces. For kids from marginalized families, child-care centres are a home away from home,” said Alomes. 

The alliance will combine NUQO’s experience in building  quality and culturally grounded modular spaces with Natural Pod’s non-toxic, sustainable, and durable school furniture. For communities and educators seeking to access funding through programs including the ChildCareBC New Spaces Fund, NUQO will support the process from funding application, to design-assist, construction management, building completion and fit-out, after which Natural Pod will collaborate with NUQO to furnish the interiors.

Photo courtesy of Natural Pod

“We see this partnership with NUQO as a powerful statement within their spaces that every child belongs,” said Alomes. “The schools become safe spaces. Often children are in their learning environments more than they are actually in their own homes. It really will provide a strong message of support to these children and to their families, showing that they really do matter.” 

This partnership will also be dedicated to community support and the companies plan to donate a portion of profits to charitable causes in B.C.