Stories From the Front-lines
Our Continued Response to COVID-19
From the environment, to mental health, homelessness, to racial equity and more, a wide range of organizations are responding directly to needs in the community, often exacerbated by the ongoing impact of the pandemic. Below, we share their stories.
Received: $15,000 through the 2020 Community Recovery Program
Since receiving these funds on October 21, 2020, Youthspace.ca volunteers have engaged in 1,002 chats with youth under 30. Due to the anonymity of the service, NEED2 cannot say for sure how many of their users are unique versus repeat visitors, but they estimate that roughly 80% of users are unique (800 youth). Notably, between October 21, 2020 and January 12, 2021, over 30% of chats involved risk of suicide and/or self-injury. Approximately 3% of all cases resulted in emergency intervention (i.e. Youthspace.ca staff calling emergency services for a youth in imminent crisis).
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a significant increase in the number of youth accessing our service that report feelings of isolation and loneliness. Lockdown and pandemic measures have been the subject of over 15% of our Youthspace.ca chats since March 2020. Youth are reporting that the pandemic has made existing mental health issues more challenging to navigate and many are feeling cut off from their pre-pandemic support networks. Our volunteers hear things like: “and now I’m unemployed due to the pandemic”, “the pandemic has got me so incredibly lonely”, “because of COVID, we haven’t seen each other in over three months and it’s killing me”, “this pandemic messed everything up”*. Over the past year and thanks to the generous support of our donors, Youthspace has provided (and continues to provide) a much-needed response to these issues: a safe space for youth to be heard and to seek support remotely, accessibly and free from judgement. Youth accessing Youthspace receive emotional support, risk assessment and safety planning, and connection to local resources when appropriate. These youth often leave feeling heard and less alone (“services like this are so great. They remind me that people actually care and are there for me”*) and in some cases, our service is literally lifesaving.”
*quotes paraphrased slightly to protect the anonymity of Youthspace users
Surrounded by Cedar Child & Family Services
Received: $28,897 for laptops and audio-conferencing licenses and Rapid Relief funding
“At the start of the pandemic, we didn’t know what we do. We had a staff team of 28 who needed to be sent home to work and we had only 3 laptops and 1 conference line that cost 6 cents/minute for every person that signed on! Transitioning to online program delivery and supporting our staff to find new ways to connect with the children, youth and families they serve was our priority. We know that indigenous people aren’t well without connection to spirit and culture, and we didn’t know how we could help. It makes me a little teary to think how much the Rapid Relief Fund and Community Recovery program helped. I’m not sure how we would have been able to meet our technology needs without this assistance, which would definitely have had a direct impact on our families.” – Jennifer Chuckry, Executive Director
Black History Awareness Society
Received: $7,500 in Community Recovery Program funding for youth engagement coordinator staffing costs
The Black History Awareness Society funding is providing outreach and support to students and youth regarding anti-racism skills, training and involvement. This includes initiatives within the education system and other governmental services to identify, monitor and address systemic racism. One of the upcoming youth activities is an online workshop called the “Fifth Element.” This is part of the society’s Five Elements – History, Hip Hop and Graffiti project, which offers learning using the pedagogy of hip hop to re-engage and reconnect Black and Indigenous youth who are confronting social exclusion. Taught by mentors and artists from the Black and Indigenous communities, the project accesses themes of identity, power, resistance and creativity. The five elements are (1) Knowledge, (2) DJing, (3) Lyricism, (4) Breakdancing/African dance, and (5) Graffiti. “Knowledge” refers to the historical knowledge – consciousness of the people, their origins and their associations/movements. This thread weaves all the elements together, providing learning on the roots of hip-hop, Black Victoria, and the Indigenous lands we all occupy.
Capital Region Food & Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable (Victoria Community Food Hub)
Received: $560,000 through Rapid Relief Fund and $40,000 through Community Recovery Program
The South Island Farmhub was launched with the support of the Rapid Relief Fund in May 2020. Prior to the pandemic, The South Island Farmhub was in development as a pilot project of the Closing the Supply Gap initiative; a farmer directed initiative to bring about a strong, sustainable local food system—a values-based system for producing, organizing, distributing, and financing local food for local use. Only a few weeks prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a farmers meeting had been called to discuss how to support farmers in marketing the produce that would be ready to sell to the restaurant sector. No one could have anticipated how their proposed plans would need to take a dramatic turn in response to restaurant closures that would be in place by the end of the month. In its first year of operations over $260,000 in produce sales were generated by this important program. Currently, the SIFarmhub is looking to support local charity purchases through the “Farmbucks” program, for more information go to www.sifarmhub.ca.
“At that busy time of year farmers asked we do whatever we could to sell their produce. The Closing the Supply Gap Project had identified aggregation and distribution as a missing piece of infrastructure in our regional food economy. In conversation with the FoodShare Network, a network of 60+ member organizations who deliver food programing in our region, it was also identified that member agencies were very interested in providing local and seasonal fresh produce in their programs and support services. They had been hearing this from their program participants for some time and especially during the onset of the COVID19 pandemic. The SI Farmhub was developed in response to these two intersecting interests in a win-win situation that was made possible with an injection of funding from the Rapid Relief Fund. The implementation of this program also allowed us to action recommendations of the Food Security and Distribution Center Business Plan that was developed last winter with support from the Ministry of Agriculture. In the first 5 months of operation, over $105,000 in produce sales was an excellent start to this important program.” – Linda Geggie, Executive Director, Capital Region Food & Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable
“The South Island FarmHub has been an important part of Northstar Organic’s sales this year. A simple online sales platform coupled with very responsive and knowledgeable staff makes this a very straightforward and beneficial route for us to sell our farm produce – which, in this pandemic year is very welcome! I anticipate that the FarmHub will not only continue to be a major sales route for us but will become increasingly important for the farming community as more time passes.” – Shawn Dirksen, Owner & Operator of Northstar Organics (Local Farmer)